Wealth Vs. Power In A Tale Of Two Cities

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As W.H. Auden said “Those to whom evil is done/ Do evil in return” (Auden “September” 21-22). Similarly to Auden’s work on the effects of dictators, Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, shows the effects of one class having excessive wealth or power above another. Throughout the novel, Dickens demonstrates that when one estate has the excess power, they feel obligated to treat others inhumanely, as if they are irrelevant. However, when treated with the utmost disrespect, people will feel obliged not to change the system justly, but to change it in benefit for their personal revenge. Dickens shows his concern in any government in which one body has excessive power over another by sympathizing with the victims of the oppression. The second estate’s…show more content…
Members of the second estate had the power to subject citizens to cruel and unjust punishments as they pleased. When a boy had not kneeled down in the rain for a women sixty yards away from him, she sentenced the “youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive” (Dickens 6). Members of the second estate were unreasonably cruel to the working class. Overworked men and women of the third estate were expected to respect and honor the wealthy and could face strict penalties if they did not abide by the laws. Not only could members of the third estate be incarcerated for minor offences, but did not have the right to a hearing before a jury. Due to the unfair legislature, “prisons gorged with people who had committed no offense, and could obtain no hearing” (Dickens 291). The second estate’s excessive power and extreme cruelty, allowed them to sentence citizens to years in prison, without a fair trial. Like many other innocent prisoners, Doctor Manette was taken to La Bastille without “ a word was spoken. [He] was brought here [to La Bastille], [he] was brought [there]... to [his] living grave” (Dickens 344). Doctor Manette was taken off the street and was brought to a prison where he would have to spend the next eighteen years of his life, even though he was never sentenced by a judge…show more content…
Upon the eve of the French Revolution, citizens of the third estate demanded “Liberty, equality, fraternity, or death; the last, much easiest to bestow, O Guillotine!” (Dickens 285). The Guillotine was the symbol of the revolution and replaced the cross upon many necks of the revolutionaries, yet it also represented death to second estate members. The demand for equality surpassed the desire for justice, and replaced it with an extreme hate and an inclination for revenge. Preparing for rebellion, revolutionaries sharpen weapons at the grindstone which had “red upon it that the sun had never given, and would never take away” (Dickens 274). The grindstone was stained red, with blood upon to foreshadow the excessive blood spill to come in the revolution. As the list of second estate members grew, so did the desire for revenge. After Charles Darnay’s hearing the vote was unanimous and “at every juryman’s vote, there was a roar” (Dickens 345) as they all found Darnay guilty. Darnay was sentenced to death within twenty four hours for a crime that he did not commit, but a relative of his. Even though Darnay had not committed a crime, the revolutionaries cheer as they find all wealthy men guilty for their oppression and want revenge. Many revolutionaries, such as Madame Defarge, would stop at nothing to get revenge.
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