A Tale of Two Cities ends fairly cheerfully with its hero getting killed; Dickens’s previous novel, Little Dorrit, ends in deep gloom with its hero getting married. Violence offers Dickens a partial release from the sense of frustration and despondency which crept over him during the 1850s; the shadow of the Marshalsea lifts a little with the storming of the Bastille, and everyone remembers A Tale of Two Cities above all for the intoxication of its crowd scenes. In fact they take up less space than one supposes in retrospect, and for the most part the atmosphere is every bit as stifling as that of Little Dorrit. Dickens originally thought of calling the book ‘Buried Alive’, and at its heart lie images of death and, much less certainly, of resurrection: themes which foreshadow Our Mutual Friend.
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