One of the things that can be a little confusing
about A Tale of Two Cities is the fact that it was written in the past, but that it’s
set in an even further past. Here, look at this timeline: See that? Dickens wrote this book in 1859,
more than 60 years after the French Revolution ended. So if you want to find out more about the
time period in which Dickens was writing, check out Recap 6 in the Great Expectations
album. But if you want to find out more about the time period Dickens was writing about,
you’ve come to the right place. The French Revolution took place over a ten-year
time period, during which the social and political systems in France underwent HUGE changes.
The absolute French monarchy collapsed and was replaced by a democratic republic. And
the oppressive aristocrats got booted out in favor of a society in which citizenship
and inalienable rights were extended to the poor and the masses. So how did all this dramatic change come about? Dickens’ story may be fiction, but he actually
did a pretty good job of portraying some of the real-life causes of the French Revolution.
Check out Book One, Chapter Five, will you? Notice how Dickens repeats the word hunger
over and over and over again? That’s not just Dickens being clever with his pen. In fact,
hunger was one of the main causes of the revolution. Some historians estimate that in the really
hard years before the revolution, around 90 percent of the peasants earned only—and
barely—enough to feed their families. Tired of the omnipresence of poverty, the
huge divisions between social classes, and rampant oppression, the people joined together
to rise up against the nobles.