Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

The Best and Worst of Times

   A Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensIt is widely known that when we speak of classics, we cannot skip the name Dickens. Movie adaptations of his works had been made and re-made making his name renowned to readers and non-readers alike.  Most of his works wormed into school required readings and home libraries, and that is how I came to know him. 

We have a few Dickens stacked in my childhood home. I first had the haunting A Christmas Carol, but it was Nell Trent of The Old Curiosity Shop that captured my heart. Dickens was that sort of writer who made sure that you will attach yourself to his character/s.  They will be very endearing that their tragedy will rip the heart.  And that seems true to all of his works.

Dickens had a great passion for Social Justice and Christianity.  A TALE OF TWO CITIES, I believe, greatly exemplifies that passion. The storyline is set during the period of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, wherein violence and revenge were the end results of the extensive poverty of the major populace and the acute oppression from the elite class.

“Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule.”

What arrested my faculties is that wine-casket spilling out onto the road, people in sight rushed, drank, sponged, and swabbed wine from the mucked pavement.  The scene spoke volumes –more than hunger, more than need- it was emptiness.

“Death may beget life, but oppression can beget nothing other than itself.”

Very unlike Dickens’ other executions of widely-arrayed characters and vividly-colored scenarios, A Tale of Two Cities is composed of very select characters that will revolve in the endurance of the above-mentioned period. Dr. Manette was imprisoned to cover up a crime made by a very well-known family, while Lucie endured the life of an orphan believing that her father was already dead for years.  Charles Darnay suffers the shame of his birth name, while Sydney Carlton despairs from the shadow of his past.

Two things I love in this tragic tale: (1) Dickens’ unbiased representation of both sides of the revolution, depicting the ‘best and worst’ in both the nobility and the commoners –recounting the oppression endured by the peasants, the severe cruelty of the rich and powerful, and eventually the horror of revolution. The godlessness of this period made monsters of men, but also ordained heroes whose sacrifice shattered the hearts. (2) The uses of Resurrection in the plot –Dr. Manette was recalled to life after his long imprisonment, Mr. Cruncher’s occupation as a resurrection man, Lucie and Sydney’s heartfelt conversation about being kindled from a heap of ashes, Sydney Carlton’s heartbreaking prayer of resurrection during his sacrifice, and finally Charles Darnay’s resurrection from the dead and leading a new life assuming the Sydney Carlton name.

“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.”

This tale (as I said) is tragic, but is not all epics? The story resonates the best and worst of times in any period, people of any age can readily reflect on its content.

“Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seeds of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.”

Book Details:
Author:  Charles Dickens
Publisher:  Public Book Domain
Publication:  December 1, 2010
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★


Our F2F discussion at Cab Cafe, Pasig, 
wonderfully moderated by Ycel and Camille.
Photo courtesy of Ycel.


  1. Oh that's right! Resurrection is a prevalent theme in this book, inasmuch as death. Or maybe even more. And the spilled wine scene was amayzeeng! And I am now getting curiouser and curiouser about The Old Curiosity Shop. :)

  2. I love this review! And I loved our discussion of the book as well. :)

    1. Thank you, Monique.
      Imagine the racket we made in spite of our number, grabe! It was pure fun. ♥

    2. Whoops! I contributed to the racket, haha!

    3. Hahaha.
      If ever we conduct a survey from all the restaurants and establishments we've been, what would they all say? I won't be surprised with the answers, I think. ♥