Friday, November 9, 2007

A Tale of Two Cities

The Taking of the Bastille

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.

" . . . tell Wind and Fire where to stop," returned madame; "but don't tell me."

Charles Darnay seemed to stand in a company of the dead. Ghosts all! The ghost of beauty, the ghost of stateliness, the ghost of elegance, the ghost of pride, the ghost of frivolity, the ghost of wit, the ghost of youth, the ghost of age, all waiting their dismissal from the desolate shore, all turning on him eyes that were changed by the death they had died in coming there.

If you could say, with truth, to your own solitary heart, to-night, 'I have secured to myself the love and attachment, the gratitude or respect, of no human creature; I have won myself a tender place in no regard; I have done nothing good or serviceable to be remembered by!' your seventy-eight years would be seventy-eight heavy curses; would they not?"

Although I struggled to follow the story at the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, I was immediately drawn in by the writing style. The versatility of Dickens is striking. A Tale of Two Cities contrasted sharply with the charming, humorous, touching story of David Copperfield which I read for the first time last year.

I wish I had covered more pages in less time when beginning the book. I think I would have followed the story line more clearly, though it seems as if Dickens was trying to be somewhat vague and mysterious and didn't intend for his readers to immediately understand where he was headed. A few chapters into the book, I was completely hooked.

The haunting imagery, the poetic cadence, and epic tone of the novel will stick with me for a lifetime. It is a story I am sure to revisit in the years ahead.

I've posted quotes from A Tale of Two Cities in the past months, here and here. Good stuff, that.


Anonymous said...

I was the same way with this book. In fact, I tried to read it 2 or 3 times before actually finished it, but once I got past the beginning, I was hooked. It's one of my favorite novels. The first time I read it through for the story, then I immediately reread to see the marvelous way Dickens put it together, to "catch" the things I missed the first time. I want to read it again some time.

Kevin Stilley said...

I did not enjoy the first half of the book, but loved the second half. In fact, I named a dog after Sydney Carton.