Discussion questions – A Tale of Two Cities: Questions 1-3
1. A Tale of Two Cities opens with a passage that has become one of English literature’s best known: “It was the best of times…” It is a passage well worth parsing. What does Dickens mean by setting the stage with such polarities? For whom was it the best and the worst of times? Dickens also mentions that the era about which he writes was very much “like the present period,” which when he was writing meant the late 1850s. Why does this passage continue to be quoted today? In what ways does our own present period merit such an assessment?
2. The novel takes place, per its title, in two cities: London and Paris. What are some of the differences between these two cities? Between their denizens? What about characters who travel—or move residence—from one to another? What about each of the cities themselves: how are they divided in two?
3. Why does Dickens describe Madame Defarge, several times in her early scenes, as seeing nothing? Why does this depiction of her change?