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YMMV / A Tale of Two Cities

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  • Draco in Leather Pants: Madame Defarge is often regarded with a greater deal of sympathy than the story's "heroes"; Harold Bloom called her, "Everybody's favorite character in the novel." Granted, there are legitimate reasons to feel sorry for her, but they don't excuse her worse misdeeds.
  • Ho Yay: Charles and Sydney, partially due to Have a Gay Old Time but not entirely.
  • Idiot Plot: The whole climax kicks off when Charles Darnay arrives in France, without telling his wife, his father-in-law or his boss about his whereabouts, all to protect his steward Gobelle. He arrives in France in the middle of a warzone, with virtually no documents despite being a former nobleman with none of the protections and connections that Mr. Lorry was able to foster at Tellson's branch in Paris. What makes it worse is that Darnay's actions very nearly become a Senseless Sacrifice with the person he wanted to rescue, Gobelle, being freed without his help at all, and Darnay's actions endanger his family and lead to Carton's death.
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  • It Was His Sled: Carton dies at the end.
  • Moral Event Horizon: No words are enough to describe the things that the Evremondes brothers did, of which raping Madame Defarges's sister and murdering her brother and imprisoning Doctor Manette in the Bastille is only a fraction.
  • Tear Jerker:
    • The repetition of "I am the resurrection and the life" as Sydney goes to his death can hit pretty hard.
    • Also, the Little Seamstress whose only crime was being employed by a noble and who will never see her cousin again, but goes to her death with dignity and grace.
    • Additional Tear Jerker if you ascribe to it a bit of Alternative Character Interpretation. The Seamstress recognizes the switch and knows that Sydney is sacrificing himself. At the end of their lives, they share companionship, love, and they bless each other.
    • To some Madame Defarge's backstory is quite a huge tearjerker as well; her pregnant sister was raped by one of the Evremondes and died of mistreatment, taking the baby she was carrying with her, her brother and brother-in-law died defending her, and her father died of grief.
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    • "The Fellow of No Delicacy". In contrast with its preceding chapter "The Fellow of Delicacy" (Stryver's douchey attempt at wooing Lucie because she's hot and he's rich), Carton's hopeless declaration of love for Lucie, his obvious self-loathing, and promise to do anything for her and those she loves is heartbreaking.
    • The conclusion, namely the scene where Sydney starts the Bavarian Fire Drill with Charles Darnay, so that they can trade places in prison, and to spare Darnay, he won't let him know what's going on. Darnay's utter despair, his growing confusion and how absolutely painfully sweet the scene is queue the waterworks. It eventually leads into Sydney's execution, where he selflessly contemplates the life that Darnay will live with the woman they love and calmly submits to the guillotine.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Cruncher's Domestic Abuse of his wife is more or less Played for Laughs, but to a modern reader it can come across as more disgusting than comedic. This has the side affect of making Cruncher less sympathetic than the author may have intended him to be.
    • Dickens's portrayal of the French Revolution, while Fair for Its Day in showing the sympathetic reasons for its occurrence, is still colored by his perspective as a Victorian Englishman. For example, novel's famous description of the Carmagnole street demonstration portrays it as an example of crowd madness, when in France it is seen as a beloved protest song against corrupt nobility. The Revolution did produce the Reign of Terror, but it also ushered in universal male suffrage, equal rights for Protestants and Jews, the no-fault divorce, a moderate amount of wealth redistribution and the abolition of slavery for the first time in the history of the world, all of which would have been considered "radical" to the European mainstream.


Example of: