A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations (Paperback)

By Charles Dickens

Penguin Books, 9780142196588, 834pp.

Publication Date: December 6, 2010

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (2/9/2011)
MP3 CD (12/30/2014)
MP3 CD (12/23/2010)

List Price: 22.00*
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Description

Two of the most beloved novels in all of English literature-together in one extraordinary volume.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES
After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille, the ageing Doctor Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There the lives of the two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil roads of London, they are drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror, and they soon fall under the lethal shadow of the guillotine.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS
A terrifying encounter with an escaped convict in a graveyard on the wild Kent marshes; a summons to meet the bitter, decaying Miss Havisham and her beautiful, cold-hearted ward Estella; the sudden generosity of a mysterious benefactor- these form a series of events that changes the orphaned Pip's life forever, and he eagerly abandons his humble origins to begin a new life as a gentleman. Dickens's haunting late novel depicts Pip's education and development through adversity as he discovers the true nature of his "great expectations."

This deluxe paperback edition features
*French flaps
*rough-cut high-quality paper
*complimentary front- and back-cover designs highlighting each novel and including foil and debossing.


About the Author

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Landport, Portsea, England. He died in Kent on June 9, 1870. The second of eight children of a family continually plagued by debt, the young Dickens came to know not only hunger and privation, but also the horror of the infamous debtors' prison and the evils of child labor. A turn of fortune in the shape of a legacy brought release from the nightmare of prison and "slave" factories and afforded Dickens the opportunity of two years' formal schooling at Wellington House Academy. He worked as an attorney's clerk and newspaper reporter until his Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Pickwick Papers (1837) brought him the amazing and instant success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. In later years, the pressure of serial writing, editorial duties, lectures, and social commitments led to his separation from Catherine Hogarth after twenty-three years of marriage. It also hastened his death at the age of fifty-eight, when he was characteristically engaged in a multitude of work.


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. A Tale of Two Cities opens with a passage that has become one of English literature's best known: "It was the best of times…" It is a passage well worth parsing. What does Dickens mean by setting the stage with such polarities? For whom was it the best and the worst of times? Dickens also mentions that the era about which he writes was very much "like the present period," which when he was writing meant the late 1850s. Why does this passage continue to be quoted today? In what ways does our own present period merit such an assessment?
  2. The novel takes place, per its title, in two cities: London and Paris. What are some of the differences between these two cities? Between their denizens? What about characters who travel—or move residence—from one to another? What about each of the cities themselves: how are they divided in two?  
  3. Why does Dickens describe Madame Defarge, several times in her early scenes, as seeing nothing? Why does this depiction of her change?
  4. Why was Charles Darnay able to see the unfairness of the class structure that privileged him and to extricate himself from it? Are there other characters as capable of seeing beyond their own circumstances?
  5. Dickens seems to have great sympathy for the poor, the sick, the powerless, but not all such characters are portrayed sympathetically. What does that say about his sympathies? Where does he intend our—the readers'—sympathies to lie?
  6. The news that Doctor Manette, while imprisoned, denounced all the descendents of the Evrémondes comes as a shock. Given that he saw young Charles and spoke with his beleaguered, compassionate mother—that he, in effect, had reason to have compassion toward them despite the evils of the family—why would he have made such a declaration? What can we make of his repeated claim in the letter read aloud during Darnay's retrial that he was in his right mind? How does he really feel about Darnay and his marriage to Lucie?
  7. What is Defarge's motive in betraying Doctor Manette, endangering his daughter and grandchild, and framing Darnay? How might the relationship between Madame and Monsieur be described?
  8. Carton's background is alluded to, though we never quite learn the source(s) of his disappointment and degeneracy. What might have happened in his past?
  9. Late in the novel, Carton is described as showing both pity and pride. "Pride" is a word we have not heretofore seen associated with Carton, who is full of mostly suppressed regret and anguish over his wasted life. What is Carton proud of, and do others see it? Does Dickens intend to convey that others see his pride?
  10. Carton has clearly misused his youthful promise and believes himself to be unredeemable. Does this view of himself actually change, and if so, how? Is Carton a man of faith? Does he become one?
  11. Lucie finds "faith" in Carton, described as a "lost man," after he confides in her. Does Lucie come to understand Carton? How? Does she believe that he can be saved from himself?
  12. Dickens prefaces the final paragraphs of the novel, which are in Carton's voice, by noting that "if he had given any utterance to his athoughts], and they were prophetic, they would have been these." How might we read the vision expressed in these words? Are we meant to take these thoughts as prophetic—that is, as a portrayal of what actually came after the end of the novel, in both France and in England? Among the beloved friends he has left behind?
  13. The vision expressed in Carton's supposed final words includes one for the country and its people after the newest "oppressors" are themselves put to death. What would such a post-Revolution world be like, and how could it be achieved?
  14. The French Revolution was of great interest to Americans in the early days of their own republic. Given today's polarities of extreme wealth and poverty and strongly expressed patriotism, as well as the interest in early America, what parallels might we draw between our own time in early twenty-first-century America and what happens in A Tale of Two Cities? What lessons?
  15. Penguin Books, Penguin Classics and Reading Group Choices wish to thank and credit the following writers and books for information used in creating this Reading Group Guide: Janice Carlisle (editor), Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism, New York, Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1996 Edmond Jabes, The Book of Questions (Volume 1), Middletown, CT., Wesleyan University Press, 1976 Fred Kaplan, Dickens: A Biography, New York, William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1988 Norman Page, A Dickens Chronology, Boston, MA., G.K. Hall & Co., 1988