Friday, June 19, 2009
A Tale of Two Cities
This is my third book for the Classics Challenge. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens has one of the most famous first lines,"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, "... and on for a whole paragraph! Anyway , the two cities are of course London and Paris and the story centers around the French Revolution. One of the main protaganists is Charles Darnay, a French nobleman who has more or less renounced his aristocratic background and is on trial for his life in England for being a spy. Through that trial he meets a French physician in exile who was unfairly imprisoned in the Bastille. Darnay falls in love and marries the doctor's daughter and they have a child. We're also introduced to the Defarges who are a French couple who help get the doctor out of prison but also lead the beheading of enemies at the guillotine. Through some hidden plot twists, it is revealed that Madame Defarge has a blood vendetta with Darnay's family and that is one of the plots driving the novel. The book is a commentary both on the oppression of the French people by the aristocracy and the consequent excesses of hatred and violence toward them. The ending is a happy one finally for Charles Darnay but only because of the Christ like sacrifice of another character, Sydney Carton. I enjoyed the book, maybe not quite as much as I thought I would and I can't really say why that is so. That said, it's amazing Dickens can cover so much ground in under 400 pages. The book also ends with another famous line, "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." I will end with those wonderful lines since Dickens said it best.