A Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensMy primary goal when Im teaching A Tale of Two Cities to my sophomores is to make them realize that Charles Dickens didnt write creaky, dusty long novels that teachers embraced as a twisted rite of passage for teenagers. Instead, I want them them to understand why Dickens was
I have a difficult time writing reviews about books that I adore because, when Im not reading them, I hug them too closely to be very critical. (BTW - I frequently hug A Tale of Two Cities in front of my students... and write Charles Dickens name with hearts around it... They think Im crazy, but it intrigues some of them just enough to make them doubt the derisive comments of upperclassmen.) I reluctantly admit that Dickens does oversimplify the causes of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror; however, in doing so, he successfully captures the spirit of a tumultuous period and helps readers sympathize with characters on every side of the developing conflict. I also think that the characters of Roger Cly and John Barsad get a bit messy and may have worked better as a single character. Perhaps the confusion is a result of serialization restructuring. But, really, I read A Tale of Two Cities like a costumed Lord of the Rings fan at a movie premier. I cheer when my favorite characters enter scenes and I knowingly laugh when Dickens cleverly foreshadows future events.
Though I dont think that A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens best novel--that title I would reserve for either Bleak House or David Copperfield--I do agree with Dickens, who claims that it was his best story. It is artfully written. Dickens introduces a cast of characters, sprawled across two nations and spanning varied social classes and political affiliations, and then effortlessly weaves their stories and secrets together in a masterful way. The Modernist movement painstakingly forced literature to reflect the ambiguities and uncertainties of the real world and thats great, but sometimes it is a real joy to read a story that ends with such magnificent closure. All mysteries are solved and everything makes sense. It is beautiful.
(I have to admit that I was overjoyed when a group of my fifth period girls persistently voiced their disdain for Dickens angel in the house Lucie and backed Madame Defarge. I think they may have created a Madame Defarge myspace, actually. Oh how the times have changed.)
Ms. R--, you got me. What? At the beginning of this book, you said you would get some of us. And that we would love it. You got me. I didnt get you G--. Charles Dickens did. I just introduced you.
A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.
A Tale of Two Cities
The novel tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to live in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met. The story is set against the conditions that led up to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. Dickens' famous opening sentence introduces the universal approach of the book, the French Revolution, and the drama depicted within:. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. In , a man flags down the nightly mail-coach on its route from London to Dover. The man is Jerry Cruncher , an employee of Tellson's Bank in London; he carries a message for Jarvis Lorry , a passenger and one of the bank's managers. Lorry sends Jerry back to deliver a cryptic response to the bank: "Recalled to Life.
See Important Quotations Explained. As its title promises, this brief chapter establishes the era in which the novel takes place: England and France in France, on the other hand, witnesses excessive spending and extreme violence, a trend that anticipates the erection of the guillotine. On a Friday night in late November of , a mail coach wends its way from London to Dover. The journey proves so treacherous that the three passengers must dismount from the carriage and hike alongside it as it climbs a steep hill.
Dickens, C. Dickens, Charles.
you re your own worst critic
During the day Jerry Cruncher is a porter for Tellson’s Bank. What is his occupation at night?
Never having read the book, I recently decided to put that right and discovered just how evocative the rest of the opening paragraph is. Not only is the writing wonderfully paced, with clever use of gentle repetition at the start of phrases, but the images invoked could apply to many other eras, including our own:. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
The year is , and life in England and France seems paradoxically the best and the worst that it can be. The rulers and ruling classes of both countries may have the best of life, but they are out of touch with the common people and believe that the status quo will continue forever. In France, inflation is out of control and an oppressive social system results in intolerable and extreme injustices being committed against average citizens, who believe they have the worst of life. The breaking point — riotous rebellion — is near, and the populace of France secretly but steadily moves toward revolution. Meanwhile, in England, people give spiritualists and the supernatural more attention than the revolutionary rumblings from American colonists, and an ineffective justice system leads to widespread violence and crime.