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Lorenzo

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A Tale of Two Cities
« on: November 20, 2007, 03:20:25 PM »
Review by: A. Lorenzo



In the book A Tale of Two Cities, we review the French Revolution as seen through the eyes of Charles Dickens, which is seen in such a negative light. Dickens is rather effective in showing how Dickens views the French Revolution. Charles Dickens’ use of words and characterization of the antagonists and protagonists embellishes his views of the French Revolution, which is keenly negative, from our readings. There are rather many instances in which Dickens compares the cities of London and Paris, in which Paris seemed to be filled with seemingly fanatical obsession with ‘ Equality, Liberty and Fraternity,’ and retribution against the aristocracy, which led to the deaths of thousands. This book, to me, is a rather nationalistic book that describes the present situation of England during that time period with the loss of the American Colonies, religious prophecies and economic worries.

Dickens’ indirect emphasis of Britain as a nation that holds its bearings is manifested successfully when he compares the British situation with the excessive spending of an already bankrupt France, massive political and populatory unrest, which would later result in the erection of the ‘French Revolution’. In other words, London is a city that is described as a beacon of stability and the upholding of the Royal Monarchy in forms of political checks and balances, whereas in France, the country seems completely anarchic, with the deposition of the monarchy and the arrival of the ‘Reign of Terror’. Dickens best summarizes this comparison in his excerpt, “ 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.”  That excerpt was a rather beautiful in that it correlates the positive with London and the negative aspects with Paris; quite understandable because at the same time the Reign of Terror was occurring in France.

From the quaint excerpts throughout this book, Dickens excels in the use of figurative language to illustrate his vision of the French Revolution. One particular excerpt that uses effective imagery is in the last passage of page 213 in the book, “muskets were being distributed so were cartridges, powder and ball, bars of iron and wood, knives and axes, pikes every weapon that distracted ingenuity could discover of devise.”  This excerpt by Dickens showcases the vigilantism and violence that covered the very air of Paris, France. This very fear of unchecked revolutionariasm, which Dickens, an Englishman, knew too well as the American War for Independence struck home. However, the French Revolution was different and rather unique in its own right; its total brutality, its control of the hordes of Parisians, which were unfathomable for some was an alarming wake up call for the Great Britain.

One thing that Dickens excels in this book is his correlation of the French Revolution and all the devastating natural disasters that could befall on a nation state and a people. This can be observed in an excerpt where Dickens describes the intensity of revolutionaries in taking the Bastille, “As a whirlpool of boiling waters has a centre point, so all this raging circled round Defarge’s wine-shop, and every human drop in the caldron had a tendency to be sucked towards the vortex.”  Dickens further describes the onslaught of the French Revolution in graver tones as in the last passage of page 218 describing the ‘people’s fury’, “The sea of black and threatening waters, and of destructive upheaving of wave against wave, whose depths were yet unfathomed and whose forces were yet unknown. The remorseless sea of turbulently swaying shapes, voices of vengeance, and faces hardened in the furnaces of suffering until the touch of pity could make no mark on them.”  Dickens paints some kind of cooperation between the people and illustrates how deeply interwoven the Parisians were; specially with the use of identifying factors such as ‘Jacque 1, Jacque 2 etc’; thus showcasing how there was no individualism in this time period, but rather a sense of pluralism and ‘oneness’ within the ranks of the people.

The French Revolution was indeed painted in grave tones by Charles Dickens, with his excellent examples of imagery to paint the gravity of this political phenomenon. From the specific examples of Dickens throughout this book, one concludes that there is indeed some kind of nationalist sentiment in comparing the stability of London and England to the state of anarchy and orderlessness in Paris and France in general.


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Lorenzo

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Re: A Tale of Two Cities
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2009, 12:52:22 PM »
Another great literary piece. Anyone read this?

Care to discuss your view on the book?

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zhaira931

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Re: A Tale of Two Cities
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2010, 12:40:42 PM »
Actually I was inspired by this book. By reading it on your post, I have concluded that this tale of two cites is a story of personal loyalty, friendship, and communion, even in turbulent times.

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cujo

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Re: A Tale of Two Cities
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2010, 01:21:16 PM »
I don't know why,as I saw the title it was Sodom and Gomorrah on my mind.I just now read it in your post Lorenzo.I heard about the place Bastille.It is a prison.If I am right Leonardo de Caprio made a movie about a prisoner in Bastille."The Man in the Iron Mask.

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Lorenzo

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Re: A Tale of Two Cities
« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2010, 01:37:18 PM »
Yes, yes! Bastille, indeed, was the place where they placed Leo de Caprio's character in. French revolutionary thinkers associated it with Absolutism and rigidity of the Monarchy. It's funny how you mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah, because the two cities (Paris and London) were considered the cities of filth , grime, and uncontrolled revolutionary thought back in the 18th to 19th centuries.

There was a Spanish saying that conservative Spanish nobles would tell their children prior to studying in Paris,
"Estudie el académico, y no se asocie en las barras de café"
(Study and focus on academics, and do not attend the cafe bars)

The reason for this, interestingly, is because it was in the cafe bars, coffee shops that Enlightenment thought and ideas were spread amongst the third estate (the commoners). Spanish students that studied in Paris, upon entering these so called coffee shops, were overwhelmed with the foreign ideas; such as universal equality, religious freedom, republican ideals. Spain, and the Spanish society was ultra conservative and super-catholic that any notion of liberalism that was so openly accepted in France was stamped out.

Conservative cities such as Madrid, Muscovy,  Vienna, Berlin (Brandenburg), Lisbon and Rome considered the two cities (London and post-revolutionary Paris) as being the cities of filth. Paris was so feared by the Absolutist Kingdoms because of concern that the revolution would spread to their own lands.
And it did spread; by point of gun.


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cujo

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Re: A Tale of Two Cities
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2010, 09:37:30 PM »
Hmmm interesting informatiom.Sometimes I just have bits and pieces of knowledge about a certain things and reading your post make it easier to learn and understand.Thank you.I will keep reading..

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Lorenzo

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Re: A Tale of Two Cities
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2010, 04:22:43 AM »

Cujo, we're both in the same boat. Let's keep on reading and learning hehe. Thank you for finding interest in this book. I also recommend you take a look at Great Expectations and Cricket on the Hearth. Both are great (less appreciated) works by Dickens that inspired me. I hope it inspires you too. :)

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cujo

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Re: A Tale of Two Cities
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2010, 04:29:55 AM »
Great Expectations[/i] and Cricket on the Hearth. Both are great (less appreciated) works by Dickens that inspired me. I hope it inspires you too. :)

I'll try,thank you.

Lorenzo

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Re: A Tale of Two Cities
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2010, 03:21:55 AM »
You're welcome. How's the reading? Views?

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