Set during the terror of the French Revolution, A Tale of Two Cities follows the influence of historical and political upheaval on a small group of individuals: Charles Darnay, a French aristocrat who rejects his family and its tradition of terrorizing the lower classes; Dr. Manette, a physician whose 18-year imprisonment in the bastille left him bereft of his senses and a symbolic hero for the masses; Lucie, the daughter of Manette who unknowingly marries the descendent of her father's oppressors; Sydney Carton, Darnay's drunken lawyer who finds meaning in life through an unrequited love for Lucie; and Madame Defarge, a mob leader whose sheer rage at the oppression of the lower classes is woven into her knitting and who schemes for vengeance. Bookended by Darnay's two trials (the first, a false accusation of spying against the British; the second, a mob trial based on the deeds of Darnay's ancestors), this adaptation of the Dickens classic explores the relationship between an individual and the historical and political forces that govern his or her times. The themes of A Tale of Two Cities are as current for today's young adults as they were two centuries ago: How does one prioritize loyalty to country, to friends, to a moral code? Is violence in the name of vengeance ever justified? Is imprisonment of an individual permissible in light of larger social and historical injustices? What are the costs to society of a citizenry divided between rich and poor? Can a single act of honor and love counteract a world filled with hatred and vengeance? And, in the face of war and terror perpetrated in the name of a broader cause, what is the definition of a life well lived?
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