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Dickens seems to foreshadow a similar revolt in England by using the French Revolution as a warning; if England’s out-of-date, oppressive, and harsh treatment of the common people is not reformed, the peasantry will likely overthrow the aristocracy and government.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:

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.