Title: A Tale of Two Cities
Novelist: Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
Genre: A semi-historical Novel-- (a Love Story)
Age: The Victorian Era-19th century
Setting: The French Revolution
Charles Dickens is the most widely read of the Victorian novelists. Despite having an uproarious married life, he keeps many masterpieces on his credit including novels, short-stories, essays and travelogues. Set at the time of a great world event, the French Revolution, “A Tale of Two Cities” was written during the period of great crisis in Dickens’ own life, when after having nine children, he realized at last and said: “Catherine and I are not made for each other and there is no help for it.” The writing of this stirring tale provided an outlet for his pent up soul.
The book opens through the arresting lines in the era of the Absolutist France in 1775: “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…” All these antithetical images suggest the two cities: London and Paris, showing what revolutions are, how they happen, what they do.
On the plot canvas, history serves as the backdrop of various picturesque scenes and episodes relating to the gory scenes, while the main story concerns with a group of certain conceived characters like Dr. Alexander Manette, Lucie -his daughter, Charles Darnay-the son of his enemies, the Evremonde brothers, and Sydney Carton-the alcoholic, but the hero of the piece.. Darnay, a born aristocrat, leaves France after getting fed up of the tyranny of his own family, with his absolute realization: “We have done wrong and are reaping the fruits of wrong.” He gets settled in London, becomes a teacher of the French Language, loves Lucie and wins her hand in marriage without knowing the fact that Dr. Manette has been suffering an 18 years long incarceration on the letter de catchet filed by his own father and uncle, the Evremonde brothers. Darnay’s compassion draws him into the main currents of the revolution gone mad as the Reign of Terror. Now the reins of Time are in the hungry and work-worn hands once suppressed. One cannot resist the images of the terror, the revolt, the outrage.
Sydney Carton, turning up the Lucie-Darnay affair into love-triangle, claims an everlasting dwelling in readers’ hearts when he expresses his love for Lucie: “I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul. Think now and then that there’s a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you.” Leading the life of profligacy, he , being a jackal, works for others, lives for others and even dies for others. The fabric of his love-sick, unfulfilled aspirations is embroidered as if by the oriental thread. By infusing life to his being, Dickens makes us feel his pains on our pulse. When the tribunal announces death sentence for Darnay within four and twenty hours, Sydney uses his trumps including the physical resemblance he bears to his rival in love, substitutes himself in the prison-cell and ascends the scaffold fulfilling his word to his love.
This moving story is written in figurative prose with an alive art of characterization. The novel is divided into three books presenting the sensational episodes, guillotine-the killing engine, the burning of chateaux, the fall of the Bastille, all these give a new thrill at every page making it a desperate story of the terrible times. Dickens himself remarked for it: “what is done and suffered in these pages, I have certainly done and suffered it all myself.” If you love literature, if you love the love stories, this book will offer an irresistible reading quite unforgettable...