The French Revolution (1789-1799) was caused by many social, political and economic problems that brought about great changes in society and the government This is illustrated in Charles Dicken's novel, A Tale of Two Cities which took place before and at the beginning of the French Revolution. Dickens depicted the causes and conditions which resulted in the French Revolution throughout the novel based on the problems of the time.
The French Revolution's main issue was about the legal divisions among social groups that had existed for many years. In French law, society was broken into three social groups called estates. The clergy was in the first estate, nobles in the second, and the peasants, merchants, middle class and common people were in the third estate. The third estate was the biggest class and many of the people earned very little money and they could barely support their families. The two higher estates took advantage of the third estate by collecting many taxes, thus nobles and the clergy did not have to pay many of the taxes. The poor became very poor and the rich became very rich. With outrage for the aristocrats, the common people were ready to fight against almost anything. People of the Third Estate everywhere talked about a revolution. Workers destroyed factories because of the frustration caused by long hours and low pay. Food shipped to France was stolen and riots broke out by unruly mobs. They broke into the Tuileries Palace taking gunpowder and equipment. Small shops and government buildings were destroyed by the mobs. Later, they broke into the Bastille and hung the governor and his guards and released some of the prisoners there that where jailed for not being able to afford the high taxes.
Charles Dickens shows in A Tale of Two Cities, that both London, England and Paris, France were having problems with this strict class system and both mirrored each other with the poverty of the third estate. For example, in Book I Chapter 5, "The Wine-Shop", in a poor district in Paris called St. Antoine, the people were so poor that when a wine casket broke and fell into the streets, people rushed out and cupped their hands to drink the wine and rejoice. Dickens also describes the peasants having stains on their arms and mouths, foreshadowing later that they will be stained with blood of the nobility, and the streets will run with blood of the revolution like the wine. Dickens describes the situation: "Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon the poles and lines..hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and started up from the filthy street that had no offal..." ( pg. 26)
Charles Dicken's mob was as bloodthirsty, if not more, as in the French Revolution . The first mob scene in Book II is when they kill the prisoners at La Force. The second mob scene in Book II is when Lucie sees the people dancing to the Carmagnole, a revolutionary dance, in which Dickens describes "there could not be fewer then five hundred people, and they were dancing like five thousand demons" (pg. 259). The third mob scene after the second trial is when the crowd congratulates Charles Darnay after he is acquitted instead of being put to death.. Charles Dickens also showed the arrogance of the upper class in Book II, Chapter 8 when the aristocrat Marquis Evermonde accidentally kills a child by his carriage. Unconcerned with the child's death or the father's grief but only with his horses' health, the Marquis coldly tosses two gold coins at the father . The father in discust throws the coins back at him. Dickens also shows his hatred of the class system by his characters of Madame Defarge and her secret society of "Jacquerie" that helped lead to the revolution. She knits constantly and "registers" the names of the people she is planning to have killed during the revolution. She is an example of the bloodthirsty attitude behind the revolution.
Another issue that resulted in the French Revolution was the new ideas about government that differed from France's current absolute monarchy which gave the king almost unlimited authority. The king