A Tale of Two Cities Resources

Welcome, Monet!

Consider this your private resource for A Tale of Two Cities. While Google Docs are great for basic text and file-sharing, and you can even comment or edit them, they don’t let you do a lot of other cool things, like embed videos or other features.

I’m experimenting with this right now, so let me know if you have any feedback about having resources here (on my website) instead of on Google Docs.

General Resources

Not having read A Tale of Two Cities, in order to help you out, I needed to familiarize myself with the text. But Dickens’ English can sometimes be pretty confusing, so I like reading the text alongside annotations, which is why I like SparkNotes. They not only offer the text side-by-side next to helpful “in plain English” explanations, but they also have character lists, important facts, and analyses of the chapters.

SparkNotes also did a video summarizing the story, which can help if you’re more of a visual person like I am!

If you want even more plain English, check out this summary from Shmoop. It does skim over the chapters pretty quickly, though, so don’t substitute summaries from sites like these for reading the actual text. This site also has some other pretty neat resources, like infographics of the themes of the story and who the characters are (and their strengths and weaknesses).

If you don’t mind a bit of foul language, I happened to enjoy Thug Notes’ summary of the story, complete with an analysis on the doubling we talked about before, as well as the overarching theme of resurrection (among others):

Many of these summaries talk about the overall themes of the stories. A common question that people ask about A Tale of Two Cities is “what are the two cities in the title, and why should we care about them?” The answer is obviously Paris and London, but since the historical backdrop of the story is the French Revolution, why does London figure so prominently in the story?

Many of the characters are going back and forth between Paris and London, “escaping” one place only to get “imprisoned” in some fashion in the other. Sometimes these even happen within the same city (as with Manette getting imprisoned in France, only to also find his freedom there, once Lucie and Lorry find him making shoes above the Defarge’s wine shop).

Check out this 60-second summary that points out how many of the disparate “doubles” throughout Dickens’ story actually tie together, and how two of the major themes of the story (revolution, resurrection) are actually not as literal as we might initially think:

If you liked this video, check out the study guide with a bunch more short-form videos about the characters, motifs, symbols, and context behind the novel.

Television and Film


Not much into animation? There were several movie adaptations of Dickens’ novel, including three silent films in 1911, 1917, and again in 1922, as well as a 1935 movie that was nominated for two Oscars. Like many movies, it got a remake in the 1950s, and then again (as a made-for-TV movie) in the 1980s.

The BBC also made a TV mini-series in the late 1980s. So if it takes about 20-30 years for studios to consider a remake, aren’t we overdue for one? Well, last year Variety reported on a modern-day take on A Tale of Two Cities in the works at ABC Studios. And those aren’t even all of them! You can look up A Tale of Two Cities on IMDB or Wikipedia to see more of the TV and film adaptations out there.

If you watch one of the adaptations, ask yourself: what’s changed? Why?

If you were modernizing A Tale of Two Cities, what would be the most challenging thing(s) to account for?

Speaking of movies, did you know that filmmaker Christopher Nolan cited A Tale of Two Cities as inspiration for the final movie in his Batman trilogy (The Dark Knight Rises)?

What elements of A Tale of Two Cities do you think could play out in modern-day settings? What about fantastic settings with superheroes as well as ordinary people?

Finally, if you want to go more in-depth with the historical backdrop that is the French Revolution, check out this Crash Course in World History video:

After watching this video, think about the following questions:

  • Was the French Revolution successful? What ultimately changed for France, and was it necessarily better or worse?
  • Was the French Revolution more “revolutionary” than the American Revolution? How so?

Remember that A Tale of Two Cities = the French Revolution + Wilkie Collins’ The Frozen Deep, at least to a small degree. The fact that a historical event didn’t go the way Dickens thought (or perhaps hoped?) may have led him to try and write another less-current historical novel with a similar question of “What does it mean to do the right thing?” as a theme.


See if you can track down either of these books at your local library, or get the eBook through the links here (if available):

Podcasts and other Audio

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