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Foreshadowing in A Tale of Two Cities

Much of the action in the novel foreshadows the arrival of the French Revolution, both through its depictions of intensifying social unrest in Saint Antoine and the mysterious echoes that surround Dr. Manette’s house in London. Furthermore, Dickens seems to foreshadow a similar revolt in England by using the French Revolution as a warning; if England’s out-of-date, oppressive, and harsh treatment of the common people is not reformed, the peasantry will likely overthrow the aristocracy and government.

Foreshadowing Examples in A Tale of Two Cities:

Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter II

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"RECALLED TO LIFE..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter II)

The phrase “recalled to life” suggests resurrection and foreshadows Jerry's fate later in the novel.

"finding none..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter II)

To set the dismal mood, Dickens employs foreshadowing, personification, and simile. These lines hint at the disastrous action to come.

"A LARGE CASK OF WINE..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter V)

Throughout the novel, Dickens uses red wine to symbolize bloodshed, specifically the blood shed during the French Revolution.

"red..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter V)

The red wine that stains "the ground of the narrow street" is another example of how Dickens uses the wine to symbolize the blood spilled during the French Revolution a decade later.

"Hunger..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter V)

Through personification, Dickens writes that "Hunger" "ploughed into every furrow of age." This image demonstrates the peasants' suffering and foreshadows forthcoming misery and anger across the country.

"took up her knitting..."   (Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chapter V)

Madame Defarge's constant knitting, which becomes significant later in the novel, recalls the Parisian women who sat beside the guillotine during public executions throughout the French Revolution. These women were called tricoteuses, which literally means "knitting woman" from the French tricoteuse.

"He don’t get no iron rust here!”..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter I)

The young Cruncher, though apparently like his father in many ways, has become suspicious of Jerry’s inexplicably rusty hands. Though we know little about Jerry’s other work (other than that he digs up bodies), the rust suggests that Jerry is not the honest tradesmen he professes to be.

"more respectable..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter I)

Dickens uses Tellson's Bank to symbolize England's archaic and outdate stance on capital punishment. He seems to issue a warning to England against this form of punishment, especially when used to correct both serious and trivial crimes.

"Judas..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter III)

Judas, one of the thirteen disciples, betrayed Jesus Christ to Pontius Pilate for thirty pieces of silver. The comparison between Barsad and Judas demonstrate that Barsad is not the "unimpeachable patriot" he claims to be.

"except wine like this..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter IV)

Dickens often uses red wine to symbolize blood and revolutionary sentiment—specifically the growing public outrage that would initiate the French Revolution in 1789. As we shall see, Sydney Carton becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his lot in life. His penchant for wine suggests that he may be capable of violence.

"disused shoemaker’s bench..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VI)

Dr. Manette’s shoemaker’s bench symbolizes the trauma of Dr. Manette’s past imprisonment. Like the echoes of Soho Square, the bench suggests an uneasy and difficult future for the Manettes.

"their course..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VII)

The water from the fountain is perhaps a symbol of the terrible fate that awaits the French nobility. The repetition of the word “ran” demonstrates inevitability and foreshadows impending revolution.

"besides the Cook..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VII)

During the 18th century, chocolate was associated with extravagance and decadence. Dickens foreshadows the French Revolution by highlight upper-class greed as Monseigneur and the four men indulge in drinking chocolate.

"steeped in crimson..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VIII)

Dickens continues to employ the imagery of the color red to foreshadow the looming revolution. The Marquis, who is "steeped in crimson" from the setting sun, foreshadows the revolution and what may become of him.

"the sun and the Marquis..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter VIII)

Perhaps, Dickens’s description of the sunset serves as a symbol of the fall of the French aristocracy—including the Marquis and his fellow noblemen, who are quickly losing their power.

"the German ballad of Leonora?..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter IX)

The German “Ballad of Leonora” was written by Gottfried Augustus Bürger in the early 1770s. Though written in German, the Ballad was translated into English in the 1790s. In the ballad, Leonora loses her lover to battle and longs for death; her lover miraculously appears to carry her off to their “marriage bed.” The bed, however, is a grave, and “‘Twas Death that clasp’d the maid.” Dickens’s simile suggests a similarly grim outcome for Monsieur Gabelle as he makes his escape on a “double-laden” galloping horse.

"vinous..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XV)

The adjective “vinous” refers to the inebriating effects of drinking wine. Since Dickens employs red wine to foreshadow the eventual bloodshed of the French Revolution, the intoxication of red wine symbolizes the growing resentment of Saint Antoine's people.

"echoing footsteps..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XXI)

Dickens repeatedly uses echoes to symbolize fate—specifically, the inevitable arrival of the French Revolution. Lucie can hear the sinister energy of growing social unrest in the “echoing footsteps of years” and can do nothing to stop it. The footsteps themselves likely represent the marching of an angry mob, such as the one that would storm the Bastille in Saint Antoine in 1789.

"Loadstone Rock..."   (Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter XXIV)

The word "loadstone" refers to a magnet made of the magnetic oxide of iron. In marine navigation, loadstone rocks were used as compasses. Here, Dickens alludes to "The Third Calendar's Tale" from Arabian Nights, a story which follows Ajib as his ship sinks when it crashes into a loadstone rock. Through this allusion, Dickens suggests that Darney is drawn to Paris with the same connection as a ship to a loadstone rock, and that he will also encounter the same fate as Ajib.

"one knitting...."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter III)

Mr. Lorry does not yet recognize the Defarges’ influential role in the revolution. Madame Defarge’s knitting, though possibly benign in this specific instance, symbolizes and foreshadows her complete lack of sympathy for Charles Darnay and his family.

"All the air around was so thick and dark..."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter VII)

The Victorians believed that sickness, as well as general moral corruption, could be transmitted via fog, mist, or clouds. Dickens often uses mist or clouds to foreshadow an impending disaster—in this case, violence and death—and convey a tone of anxiety and apprehension.

"the sense of being oppressed bursting forth like a fire...."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter X)

The “sense of being oppressed” that “burst[s] forth like a fire” suggests revolutionary sentiment. Dr. Manette unknowingly foreshadows the intense resentment and rage that would lead to the French Revolution in 1789, roughly 30 years later.

"the armorial bearings of a Noble, and the letter E...."   (Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter X)

Armorial bearings (also called “coats of arms” or “heraldic arms”) indicated the rank of a member of the nobility. The original purpose of heraldic arms was for knights to identify one another in battle. The letter “E,” as we shall see, suggests that the two aristocrats may be Evremondes (Charles Darnay’s family), and furthermore may be connected to Dr. Manette’s lengthy imprisonment.

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