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. R--, you got me. And that we would love it. You got me. Charles Dickens did. I just introduced you. Quote: "A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. View all 60 comments. Hundreds, thousands of stories long to have a quotable verse, just one.
Tale of Two Cities, Dickens masterpiece as far as I'm concerned, is bookended by two of the most recognizable quotes in all of English language. This is also the darkest story I have read of his, and no doubt, it's about the bloody French Revolution and Dickens spares none of his acerbic wit to demonize what was rightly demonic.
Yet, to his credit and genius, neither does he sugar coat the great social injustices that led ir Hundreds, thousands of stories long to have a quotable verse, just one. Yet, to his credit and genius, neither does he sugar coat the great social injustices that led irresolutely to the collapse of the aristocratic French class.
Lacking his usual humor, again understandable, this nonetheless again displays his mastery of characterization. No character is as complete and now archetypal as Madame Defarge. I thought that Bill Sykes was his greatest villain, but Citizeness Defarge was simply a portrait of evil.
So many stories hope for a memorable scene and this has many, highly influential since, I thought of several works that had borrowed heavily from TOTC themes especially Doctor Zhivago , many allusions to TOTC, and that also made me wonder was TOTC the first dystopian novel? The scene between Madame Defarge and Ms Pross was stunning, and made me think of the riveting scene between Porfiry and Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. View all 30 comments. Jan 17, Sean Barrs the Bookdragon rated it liked it Shelves: 3-star-reads , classics.
Charles Dickens is a demanding writer. The narratives of Great Expectations and Oliver Twist are relaxed and simple when compared to this. Reading Dickens requires concentration, and a will to carry on when sometimes the writing gives you a headache. This is a historical novel. Dickens tells the story of the storming of the Bastille, some fifty years after it happened.
Unlike most of his work, all traces of humour are removed. There are no caricatures and quirkiness within his writing. This i Charles Dickens is a demanding writer. This is all very serious material, which, of course, it needs to be. But, for me, this is what Dickens does best. His ability to juxtapose themes of human suffering, poverty and deprivation with ideas of the grotesque, ridiculous and, at times, the plain mad, are where his real master strokes of penmanship come through. What we do have though is a strong revenge plot running through the book, and the revolt which occurred two thirds of the way in.
And, like the name of the book suggests, this is a tale about two cities: London and Paris. Dickens loved to criticise society, and all its stupid aristocratic nuances. Here he takes great pains to show that London is no symbol of societal perfection. The aftermath of the French revolution placed the British on a pedestal, at least, to their own minds.
They could not believe that their own current systems of ruling could cause such a travesty within their own capital. Dickens shows that the men in power were just as corrupt and corruptible wherever they sit, revolution can happen again. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.
Dickens brings the lives of a huge cast of characters, spanning over two cities, and two nations, all of which have a varied station in life and political beliefs, into one final conclusion. This is nothing unusual for fiction of the Victorian era, though it did feel very much like a construct. The modernists would address such issues in the next century, mainly to criticise them heavily due to their incapability at capturing the essence of life within fiction.
Perhaps they have a point here? So this is a very strong story, one that is highly perceptive and intuitive at times. As a reader, I need a certain degree of entertainment when reading. Even Jane Austen would interpose her narrative with moments of scathing sarcasm and wit. For me, this is far from the finest work of Dickens despite the fact that it seems to be his most popular.
View all 6 comments. What an ending! I need to digest this first. XD This book always kind of intimidated me but I think with the help of th "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I got to than I have ever known. Thank you so much for doing this buddy read with me! View all 18 comments. Feb 09, Leslie rated it it was amazing. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Most satisfying ending in the English language.
Yes, the last line is a classic "It is a far, far better thing But this novel delivers such a gratifying experience because there are, in fact, many characters who cover significant emotional ground in their journey to love one woman as best they can. Lucie's father battles his way back from madness under the gen Most satisfying ending in the English language. Lucie's father battles his way back from madness under the gentle protection of his daughter.
Lucie's childhood nursemaid evolves from a comical stereotype to an embattled force to be reckoned with. Lucie's husband's well-meaning if bland noblesse oblige culminates in -- not his hoped-for heroic moment, but a moment of quiet dignity that is most moving for its humility. Even Lucie's banker reaches dizzying heights of heroic accomplishment when Dickens appoints the quiet businessman the vehicle for an entire family's escape from the guillotine. It is true that Lucie herself engages the reader less than her brutal counterpart -- the broken but terrifying Madame Defarge -- is able to, as modern readers are less moved by the swooning heroines who populate the period's "literature of sensibility.
And when Sydney Carton, in equal parts love and despair, tells Lucie that "there is a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you" I go to pieces. Every damn time. View all 20 comments. I figured it was about time to get to it. The book is divided into three parts and when I got to the end of part two which is a little over pages into the book , I was sure I was going to give the book 2 stars.
Not that I was kidding myself that Dickens would be an easy read, but I had to force myself back into the book every day because I knew it would end up being a chore. Then I hit part three. It is all worth it for part three! Part three by itself is 5 stars all the way — so I averaged out my overall rating to 4 stars.
SparkNotes: A Tale of Two Cities
I hope that you find the ending as interesting and engaging as I did. Also, thanks again to Shmoop for helping me along the way with chapter summaries. View all 29 comments. The novel tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to life in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met; Lucie's marriage and the collision between her beloved husband and the people who caused her father's imprisonment; and Monsieur a The novel tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to life in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met; Lucie's marriage and the collision between her beloved husband and the people who caused her father's imprisonment; and Monsieur and Madame Defarge, sellers of wine in a poor suburb of Paris.
The story is set against the conditions that led up to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. View all 7 comments. It was an instant success when it was first published, and its popularity has remained steady ever since, as one of the best selling novels of all time. For many, it is their most loved novel by Charles Dickens.
It is one of only two historical novels Dickens ever wrote, and he wanted to try out a few new ways of writing, to celebrate the launch of his new periodical. At this time Dickens felt very at home in France, speaking French fluently, and identifying so much with the French character that he sometimes viewed himself as almost a Frenchman in exile. He despised any parochial or narrow-minded thinking he might see in English people, and frequently poked fun at them in his writing. Dickens jokingly claimed to have read the book times.
Attempting to imbue his new way of writing with more gravitas, Dickens tried to curb, or at least subdue, some of his own habits of fanciful imagination. Along with the less discursive style, he paid less reliance on character development and humour, both more usual indicators of his style. Some readers maintain they do not associate Dickens with humour, and I personally feel that that is due in large part to their familiarity with his later works, especially this one.
If this is the only Dickens novel one has read, it is possible to miss much of its quirky humour. A Tale of Two Cities has been dramatised countless times, and in common with many others I am drawn to each dramatisation. The story is a violent and bloody one, with acts of heroism and intrigue, secrets and lies, imprisonment and torture, sorrow and loss, terror and madness, panic and frenzy. It describes in detail the depth of depravity a human can sink to, and also instances the pinnacle of an almost unimaginable force for compassion and altruism. The characters once read about here, stay in the mind for ever; they are spell-binding, whether good or evil.
There is much mystery, and the development of the story is so tightly plotted that the tension mounts to almost unbearable limits. The horrors described are both explicit and totally believeable. After much thought, then, I have rated it five stars. Do I like it? No, not really.
What inspired A Tale of Two Cities? by Professor Michael Slater
I have to steel myself to read this each time. So this takes nothing away from my reluctant admiration for the novel. It is a deeply spiritual work, with the main theme of resurrection sitting very firmly in a Christian context. It is possible to enjoy the story without necessarily picking up quite how embedded in the novel all the Christian references are. One might see a vaguely spiritual thread of redemption running through, and an idea of a better future life, without picking up on the myriad references to blood, river, cleansing, water, shrouds, love, light and golden threads binding families together.
The 23rd Psalm possibly? A psalm which is often understood by Christians as an allusion to the eternal life given by Christ? In the story, it refers to view spoiler [Sidney Carton, sacrificing himself to the guillotine in the final scene. In other words the 23rd victim is a Christ-figure, who is willingly executed by massed crowds, baying for blood, in the culmination.
His death thus serves to save the lives of others, ensuring that his own life gains meaning and value. Dickens liked to make his meanings crystal clear. Between April and November , Dickens also republished it as eight monthly sections in green covers. He was therefore under even more time constraints to write each episode, and he felt this acutely. His marriage to Catherine was coming to a painful and very public ending, and he was embroiled in a clandestine relationship with Ellen Ternan. As usual he was under a phenomenal amount of pressure, and was beginning to feel the weight of his commitments more than ever.
This is reflected in the more sober feel of this novel. Although written in , A Tale of Two Cities is set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, and starts in It has a comparatively small cast for a novel by Dickens, and we follow just a few individuals through the years building up to the storming of the Bastille, a symbol of royal tyranny, in , the dark years following, and the aftermath of the French Revolution.
Although describing cataclysmic social and political events in France, the novel brings this to life by focusing on just a few characters, and the effect on their lives. The intimacy with which we know these people, is contrasted with the mass hysteria of the crowds. We know these people; yet we also know and recognise the menace brimming just under the surface, the seething surges of hatred and panic, the mob mentality and the evil deeds people can be driven to by centuries of oppression and poverty, the hate and revenge engendered by a callous indifference to their suffering.
This is an incredibly poignant scene, and we sense the brooding resentment and hatred; the heartless indifference and callous cruelty of the privileged aristocracy. For those who are reluctant to believe a classic novel can truly terrify or revolt them, please think again. Such foreshadowing makes us shudder. We know from history what is to come.
This grotesque and subhuman behaviour indicates both the starving poverty of the French peasants, and the metaphorical hunger for political freedoms. But there is no rhetoric here. She is imbued with a superhuman power. His novels also contain many symbols and double meanings.
It is possible to read A Tale of Two Cities as a nailbiting adventure story, intensified by the knowledge that many of these were actual events, and yet metaphors and symbols abound. We have doubles in characters, parallels and contrasts. We have shadows and darkness, both literal and metaphorical. The story start in gloom and mist, and the apprehension continues throughout. From the very start too, we have the theme of Resurrection. By the 18th century the medical professions were in dire need of fresh corpses to use in medical training. These could only be obtained legally from excuted murderers.
Therefore a ghoulish trade began. But Dickens could not resist his nature entirely, and did not keep a check on his impish and grotesque sense of humour. There are slapstick parts even in such a grim tale, though most of the humour is black indeed. Dickens had a penchant for ghouls and ghosts, as well as positively revelling in blood-curdling scenes. It is a careful study; a detailed and close description. Dickens stored everything in his mind, waiting for the proper time to reanimate these grotesque images, and did so with vigour and brutality in his scenes about the executions.
We see the horrors of the guillotine, the waves of hysteria and brutishness of the crowd.
We see individuals blinded to reason by their passions, and swerving allegiance on a whim. One sister spins the web of life, another measures it, and the last cuts it. Whether or not we remember the direct reference when reading, the pointers are there. A wealth of significance is waiting to seep through, or strike us like a shaft of light. And even in the midst of the unbearable horror, when we are dreading to turn the next page and are sinking in a mire of darkness and despair, we find a ridiculous death. The encounter to the death between view spoiler [ Miss Pross, with her unswerving ridiculous faith in her English superiority, and the terrifying, fearsome, Madame Defarge, hide spoiler ] is both unexpected and hilarious.
An earlier, less experienced, Dickens would have written the former as a one-dimensional comic character, yet both these two have much depth and ambiguity. A theme of imprisonment relates both to the mind and to incarcerated bodies, golden threads may be three strands of beautiful hair, or metaphorically of life, as may the mending of roads. There are the darkened regions both in prisons, and in the mind. Dickens always used real locations wherever possible. All these, and the Old Bailey, are familiar places to Londoners of today. Sometimes it is even possible to identify specific shops or inns.
At one point, two of the characters, Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton, walk down Ludgate hill to Fleet Street, up a covered way, into a tavern. The chapter headings alone are miniature masterpieces, and a world away from his earlier sentences taking up a full page. I have not told the story here, nor much about the characters, but both are easy enough to find. A Tale of Two Cities remains a novel I am ambivalent about.
I do not like what the author is saying to me, and that colours my view of it. Even at the start of this reread, I was tempted to view it as a lesser novel. Nevertheless, the more I consider it, the more highly I find myself obliged to rate it. If I put aside my love of Dickens, and my hopes of another, more enjoyable type of novel from my favourite author, I have to rate this as a masterpiece.
If you have never actually read anything by Charles Dickens, please do not start with this one! Yes, you may be tempted. It is short and has an irresistible storyline. Yes, it gets 5 stars even from me. But if you read this first you will miss so much of his humour, and of his sheer joi-de-vivre. He wanted this to be a history-driven novel, where the incidents and story would fuel the action, rather than his usual sort of book, where the plot was determined by the characters and the situations they found themselves in.
Consequently it has a very un-Dickens like feel. Read it when you have a few others under your belt. That was his personal favourite. You may need to steel yourself for a grim read, and will find commanding, powerful descriptions to chill you to your core. You will find a past full of destruction, but may see a future of hope and potential. The ending of the novel, known and loved by millions, is like the beginning, a favourite classic quotation. He repeats a word or phrase over many lines, and this makes it more rhythmic and more memorable to us.
We feel both that it encapsulates a rare truth, and also that it feels musical. Yet our memories betray us. Nobody ever says these beautiful and noble lines in A Tale of Two Cities. The author is dreaming, and taking a step back out of the book. He quite deliberately puts these words into an imagined fancy, rather than his character.
Surely only Dickens could have pulled this off with such conviction—and such style. View all 56 comments. Apr 13, Candi rated it really liked it Shelves: charles-dickens , classics-shelf , book-i-own. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Well, time flies and here I am finally having picked up my copy and actually reading this beloved-by-many classic.
In fact, it is a work that for me was more appreciated as a whole rather than for its individual parts. I needed to complete this to fully grasp the plot and the overall merit of the novel. The final portion was entirely compelling and quite brilliant, in fact. This is a novel, as the title suggests, of two cities… that of London and that of Paris.
It is a historical fiction work beginning in which then takes us further into the depths and horrors of the French Revolution. There is an abundance of mystery that I was not expecting, but thoroughly enjoyed. In addition to the juxtaposition of the two cities, we also see the contrasts between good and evil, hope and despair, death and rebirth. As suggested in my opening quote, secrets abound and are slowly revealed. Characters are drawn well, as one would naturally expect from Dickens, although I never quite felt the emotional tug towards any of them, until near the end.
But when I did reach this point, gosh it was worth it!
Sydney Carton… an unforgettable man… sigh. When the reader steps through the gates of Paris, one can feel the tension and sense the shadow of what is to come… the atmosphere is so charged with insecurity, suspicion, and dread. If you are born with the wrong blood, happen to land in the wrong place at the wrong time, or sympathize with the accused and the condemned, your life is in danger. After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille the aging Dr Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England.
There 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 lanes of London, they are all drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror and soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.
Other books in this series. Meditations Marcus Aurelius. Add to basket. Letters from a Stoic Seneca. Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad. The Republic Plato. Frankenstein Mary Shelley.
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Eichmann in Jerusalem Hannah Arendt. The Three Theban Plays Sophocles. Thus Spoke Zarathustra Friedrich Nietzsche. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte. The Prince Niccolo Machiavelli. Twelve Angry Men Reginald Rose. Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen. Beyond Good and Evil Friedrich Nietzsche.
From the SparkNotes Blog
Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte. Pride and Prejudice Anne Rees Jones. On the back of the card is a note handwritten by Carlyle himself. It says:. Various trades were carried on in this building. One of them was gold-beating. The street Dickens describes was called Rose Street but was renamed Manette Street in his honour in This blog takes you behind the scenes at the Charles Dickens Museum, giving fresh insight on everything from discoveries new and old in our collection, to exhibitions, events and learning initiatives.
If you would like to get in touch about guest blogging or have any questions relating to the blog please email info dickensmuseum. We are open Tuesday to Sunday 10am - 5pm; last admission to the historic house is 4pm. We will be running Family Friendly Tours all throughout August. What inspired A Tale of Two Cities?
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