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ENDURING LITERATURE ILLUMINATED
BY PRACTICAL SCHOLARSHIP


Dickens's epic novel of freedom, love, and the burning chaos of the French Revolution.

EACH ENRICHED CLASSIC EDITION INCLUDES:
A concise introduction that gives readers important background information
A chronology of the author's life and work
A timeline of significant events that provides the book's historical context
An outline of key themes and plot points to help readers form their own interpretations
Detailed explanatory notes
Critical analysis, including contemporary and modern perspectives on the work
Discussion questions to promote lively classroom and book group interaction
A list of recommended related books and films to broaden the reader's experience

Enriched Classics offer readers affordable editions of great works of literature enhanced by helpful notes and insightful commentary. The scholarship provided in Enriched Classics enables readers to appreciate, understand, and enjoy the world's finest books to their full potential.
SERIES EDITED BY CYNTHIA BRANTLEY JOHNSON

Topics: French Revolution, Love, Redemption, Family, Politics, Knitting, Death, Adventurous, Suspenseful, Realism, Victorian Era, Paris, London, and Literary Criticism

Published: Pocket Books on May 28, 2004
ISBN: 9781416503064
List price: $6.99
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This book is my all time favorite book read more
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I loved this book. I wasn't so sure about it as I started reading, but the way everything tied together at the end won me over.read more
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2005, Naxos Audiobooks, Read by Anton Lesser“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” I’ve loved those opening lines since forever, but somehow I’ve not read A Tale of Two Cities until now. As is always my experience with Dickens, I was spellbound by his haunting portrayal of the human condition. Here, his juxtaposition of “La Guillotine,” the excessively privileged and inhumanly cruel French aristocracy, with “Hunger,” the brutalized and starving peasant class, is so convincing that there could hardly have been a result other than the French Revolution. Still, I found it interesting that while Dickens is clear about the reprehensible brutishness of the nobility and the need for social justice , he does not condone the disturbing violence of the revolutionaries, a blight which creates its own stain, and perpetuates still more human suffering.“Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrels carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in one realization, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.” (Bk 3, Ch 15)I thoroughly enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities: powerful, plot-driven, superbly written, and historically fascinating. Favourite characters are Dr. Manette, “recalled to life” from his shoemaker’s bench after a lengthy and wrongful imprisonment; and Sidney Carton, the most self-aware character in the novel, who, in making the ultimate sacrifice, redeems himself from a selfish, wasted life. That said, if I have a criticism of the novel it is that I missed the incredible richness of character I’ve come to expect from Dickens. Lucie, for instance, is all golden-haired goodness; but I know little about her beyond that, and I so wanted more! There’s much less intimacy of private life here. The singular motivation is the Revolution. Anton Lesser, narrator of this audiobook, is fabulous! A Tale of Two Cities is highly recommended for lovers of Dickens, the classics, and historical fiction.read more
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The story of a group of Englishmen and French expatriates at the time of the French Revolution.read more
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This book is definitely one of the best from the master: a terrific story and a well-crafted novel. Dickens tells the tale of several characters who travel between London and Paris over the course of many years, spanning a period before/during/in the wake of the French Revolution – an historical novel from Dickens’ perspective, as well as ours. The characters will be familiar to his readers – the elderly father, the loving daughter, the fine man who loves her, the dedicated friends who support them, and a few comic characters thrown in for spice. But he has also given us several characters whose natures are difficult to parse; some are good although they appear evil, others are worse than we expected, and more than one is redeemed by the power of love. The story takes unexpected turns and gains speed through the tension of a brutal war escalating out of control and catching our characters in its net. As a bonus, Dickens resists his tendency to leave his serious storytelling for extraneous chapters of satiric abuse on his favorite targets – the businessmen, the con men, the government clerks, the wealthy and pompous. Here he weaves his satire in along the way, and it works better as a part of the whole. The only downside is that this story has been made into so many films and TV shows, and has been so often quoted and retold, that the reader may already have a sense of the story arc and be in for fewer surprises. But don’t worry; there will be plenty to carry you along in this truly classic tale.read more
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The very last scene was moving. Inearly cried.read more
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This is a great book! It is about the lives of several people who live in London and Paris about the time leading up to the French Revolution. Is has a lot of passion and it is a heroic book with tragedy, but with a great ending.I read this book in high school. It was a hard read, but one I have never forgotten. Dickens does make it a bit difficult to read, but I got through it fine with the help of a great English teacher.I can think of many ideas of ways to use this book in the classroom. If this is a 9 or 10th grade class I could break them into groups and have them choose from 3 or 4 project ideas that I have. One could be to build a replica of the city with the guillotine in the center of the city or Bastille. The other would be to create a newspaper using the significant happenings in the book as headlines. They could even do a skit of one of the more memorable scenes from the book.read more
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I like history, so I was interested in this book. Though this story is fiction, the last part of this book was really barbarous. They could live in such a time because there was a true love. I was moved by the beauty of people's mind.read more
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This is a great story; artfully crafted, beautiful imagery, powerful emotions. It is a tragedy that Dickens never knew that he would touch so many, but such is the life of the unknown artist. I was drawn (as many are) to Sydney Carton, the embodiment of tragedy and beauty. I also listened to the audio book read by Frank Muller. I thought the story couldn't be more moving until it was performed by an extraordinary vocal actor.read more
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I love History, but this was a tad too slow.read more
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Very different to the other Dickens novels I have read. This is a little more cryptic, and more adventurous in its prose style. I particularly admired the style in which the dialogue during the early court case was handled. Everyone is familiar with the line that occurs right at the end of this novel, though it is worth ploughing through the sometimes tricky plot, to find out exactly how the quote fits in.read more
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This is a great, moving account of two men during the French Revolution. One man has it all, the other has nothing. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." A must for readers of the classics!read more
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This book has one of the greatest opening statements and also one of the greatest closing statements in all of literature. I've read it more than once, and every time the ending leaves me in tears. Each time I read it, I discover something I overlooked in my previous readings. It hadn't sunk in until this time through how long a time span is covered in the book – from the American Revolution to the French Revolution, a period of 15-20 years. I always had a mental image of Lucy as a young woman, but she must be approaching middle age by the end of the book.I think Dickens' real genius is in his characters and the world they inhabit. Although the plot details grow fuzzy between readings, the characters remain alive: Dr. Manette and his shoe bench; Mrs. Cruncher and her floppin'; Madame Defarge and her knitting; Sidney Carton, ever conscious of his moral weakness, yet capable of one great act of courage and sacrifice. This novel is on my top ten list, and it's one that I think everyone should read at least once.read more
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The best thing about the novel is the catchy title and opening sentence. After that you have to be a masochist to follow the plot which is convoluted, plodding and worst of all for Dickens, humorless. Somehow I got through it, mercifully one of his shorter novels. It's worth pointing out it was among the least popular novels during Dickens' lifetime, only two others sold less. It sold perhaps 5% what Bleak House did. In the 20th century the popularity of A Tale of Two Cities increased mainly because it was assigned to students due to the combination of short length and the history lesson of the French Revolution, presumably making it a good teaching novel. Oprah included it in her book club because it was short and had a familiar title. It's time the novel returned to its former place at the bottom of the list alongside Barnaby Rudge and clear room for the neglected masterpieces like Dombey and Son andNicholas Nickleby.read more
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One of my favourite Dickens novels, with a gripping plot and memorable characters, and an ending that will make the strongest man sob like a child.read more
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The period from 1775 - the outbreak of the American Revolution - to 1789 - the storming of the Bastille - is the turbulent setting of this uncharacteristic Dickens novel. It is his only novel that lacks comic relief, is one of only two that are not set in nineteenth-century England and is also unusual in lacking a primary central character. London and Paris are the real protagonists in this tale, much as the cathedral was the 'hero' of Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris. Dickens was writing at a time of great turmoil in his personal life, having just separated from his wife, and no doubt the revolutionary theme was in tune with his mental state.read more
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Grandpa Farrell gave me this book because he saw how much i loved to read.read more
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Reading A Tale of Two Cities was a breath of fresh air during a stressful time sophomore year. I admire Dickens' ability to create a complex storyline and perfectly tie everything together in the end of the story. Since I liked this book, which had a strong background in the French Revolution, I am going to look into other history based books. I feel A Tale of Two Cities broadened my understanding of what great storytelling can accomplish- an interest in reading based on social commentaries and an intricate love story. I feel that my appreciation for this book requires a reread of Great Expectations. I may have read that book immaturely, and it is worth another look.read more
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enjoyable; not much different from the movie; lacked the depth of Bleak Houseread more
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The core challenge when constructing a historical novel is that, for every building block used--plot, character, theme--the author has to find a balance for the modern story he's trying to tell and the historical setting he's chosen for it. To crowd out story in order to promote history (which seems to be what people who complain about historical inaccuracy in movies generally want) leads to a very boring novel; conversely, to ignore history for the sake of story leads to writing so frustratingly atrocious it's often impossible to finish the book.And I've never seen those two concerns balanced better than Dickens manages in A Tale of Two Cities. The characters are utterly products of their time--the scion of ancien regime French nobility who seeks moderate reform but, when he's unable to achieve it, ends up a victim of the very classes of society he was trying to help; the middle-class physician who must piece himself back together after being shattered by two decades false imprisonment in the Bastille; the cunning plotter who masterminds the French Revolution from her husband's wineshop--but their aspirations and fears caught the imaginations of Dickens's readers in 1859 just as they do for readers today. And the events of their lives, which Dickens builds into a story of love, martyrdom, resurrection and--famously--of redemption through self-sacrifice (again, all powerful themes to people of any age, but particularly well-suited for a story of the French Revolution), are woven seamlessly into the events of the 1780s and 90s. This is a story that could not have been told of 1859--or of our own day--but that nevertheless speaks powerfully to peoples of all times.On top of which, in Madame Defarge you have one of the most sinister villains I've ever read, her creepiness only compounded when we learn her family history and realise that we can't actually condemn her actions.read more
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Okay, so technically I haven't finished reading it but as far as I am concerned I have. Let's not be pedantic about this - I read over half and found it so excruciatingly tiresome that I couldn't force myself through the remaining pages. I looked up what happened next on wikipedia and concluded that nothing much happened next that would validate me wasting more hours or days dragging myself through a book I did not like.For a book that is "One of the most beloved of Dickens' stories" according to the quote on the front cover or "The greatest of his historical novels" I feel very cheated and rather sad too.This book starts with the famous opener: "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."That is fantastic! Reading that I thought I was going to be onto a good 'un! However, just shows that you can't judge a book by its opening paragraph.I have loved Bleak House, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol so it's a shame I find myself giving two stars to an author I have loved in the past. I'm glad this was not my first Dickens as I do not think I would have read any others. I am very disappointed in this book as well as in part, myself for not finishing it. This would have made a much better short story I believe. There was not a plot worth speaking of and the characters were all very thin and one dimensional. Much of the French revolution was described in metaphors and complex symbolism unravelling it all was a bit like trying to find your way through a maze.I have loved Dicken's writing style, it is beautiful, humorous and full of heart, soul and humanity. However, this time it felt like digging my way through a lot of surplus words which had lost their effect long before I could appreciate them. I don't know what got into Dickens when writing this book. It felt very empty and devoid of his usual humour and interesting characters. I can't wait to read another one of his and put this one firmly at the back of my memory so that I can once again hold a high opinion of Charles Dickens.read more
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I don't do abridged. I cordially despise abridgements. Reader's Digest Condensed versions? Abominations. But this particular abridgement is an audiobook read by Tom Baker. I will listen to a calendar read by Tom Baker. I think I would even listen to Sarah Palin's autobiography read by Tom Baker. (Maybe.) Tom Baker is magnificent. He's Tom Baker. His voice is deep and rich and pleasurable as the center of a dark chocolate truffle. When Dickens' humor comes out in the text, Baker's amused tone deepens it. In more dramatic moments, the passion in his voice is tangible. His characters are beautiful. Truly, I don't think he put a foot wrong in the whole lamentably short reading. Oh, and Dickens is pretty fantastic too. One of many reasons I curse the school system is that it made me hate Dickens for a while there. I resent that. This is a gorgeous story – and yes, I will be reading the unbutchered version before long. As I've said so often this year about so many books, I read A Tale of Two Cities a very long time ago, and had forgotten quite a bit. As these things go, I think this audiobook – from Audible – was a very good abridgement. Quite a lot of dialogue and a fair amount of character development was retained (though not the revelations about Madame DeFarge's knitting); I wouldn't want to sit listening to this with the book in hand, but whatever reason there was to cut the book down, at least they did it rather well. But I'd pay good money (if I had it) to hear the whole 400-500 page novel read by Tom Baker. Or, you know, the phone book.read more
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Not Dickens' best work... his second attempt at an historical novel is rather less skilled than the first. Combines the faintly irritating sentimentality of "Oliver Twist" with the lack of planning and consequent improbability of "Pickwick"read more
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This is my favorite Dickens because it contains a bit more history than his other works. I love the picture it presents of the French Revolution and its effect on Europe.read more
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A Tale of Two Cities tells the tale of the French Revolution of 1978, and the times leading up to the Revolution, as it affects multiple characters from multiple socioeconomic backgrounds. The novel paints a vivid picture of the poorest of French citizens and the way in which their lives contrast with the overly glorified, gluttonous lives of the rich to emphasize the tension before the revolution. At the same time, the author incorporates aspects of the characters personal lives which creates a more realistic picture of the Revolution.There are two major protagonists in Dicken’s novel: Charles Darnay, the non-clichéd aristocrat who resides in England, and Sydney Carton, the stubborn attorney. Although I found both of these characters to be interesting, I had a hard time understanding the motives of their actions. In my opinion, I thought that the character development was slightly weak and because of this, I was not able to understand the two characters to the extent that I would have liked. I did, however, enjoy the way Dickens set Carton’s character as a foil for the character of Darnay. The evil, somewhat malicious personality of Carton contrasts with the more agreeable personality of Darnay, even though the two are both in love with the character of Lucie. The novel is set in third person limited point of view, which allows readers to view the heavy contrast between the different social classes. If Dickens had chosen to write in a first person point of view, readers would only have viewed the story from an extremely narrow window and would not have been able to understand the disparity between the rich and the poor, which was a major theme throughout the novel. This third person limited point of view used also allowed readers to read about very minute characters, characters of no vital importance to the story, which ultimately, helped reinforce the tension between the rich and poor. One of my favorite scenes in the entire novel follows a man named Marquis Evrémonde, a cruel member of the aristocracy. As the Marquis is riding down the countryside, his carriage runs over and murders a young boy of a lower class family. The marquis shows no sympathy for the boy he kills and continues on his way. Later, Marquis Evrémonde is punished for his action, in a very surprising way (I won’t give too much away). Although Marquis Evrémonde’s character never again appears in the novel, it was interesting to read about this man and his murderous actions and deserved punishments. I was very impressed with the author’s use of foreshadowing in A Tale of Two Cities as well. There were many times in the novel that indicated similar events to come. For example, my favorite scene involving Marquis Evrémonde foreshadows an uprising between the upper and lower classes and the death of the aristocracy. In addition to Dicken’s use of foreshadowing, there was also quite a lot of symbolism in the novel. Madame Defarge, a wine shop owner in France, spends her days knitting names into a woven piece of fabric. These names represent the people who are going to die due to the French Revolution. The quickness that Defarge knits these names into the fabric represents the informalities and immense numbers of deaths due to the revolution. Overall, I would recommend A Tale of Two Cities to anyone with a desire to read a classic, yet very thought provoking novel. Dicken’s use of foreshadowing and symbolism keeps the reader thinking, and the somewhat disturbing topic of the French Revolution keeps the reader intrigued.read more
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Like many other reviewers, I was required to read this during my secondary school days. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and how readable I found Dickens compared to other British authors of "great books" (I'm looking at you, Jane Austen). With my fondness for this classic in mind, I recently reread the book again, and while I still found it enjoyable, I thought the story suffered from the characterization of Lucie Manette. Almost every scene involving the good doctor's daughter has one of her male comrades or family members remarking on her goodness, her beauty, her strength of character, etc. when we almost never actually SEE this goodness and strength--they're just asserted through other characters' thoughts and actions.These traits contrast starkly with those of the dastardly Madame Defarge, but to me the two characters are ironically similar in that just as Madame Defarge is unlikeable for her total cruelty, Lucie is also unlikeable for her total goodness, which is a reader response I'm sure Dickens did not intend to provoke. Sydney Carton was my favorite character when I first read this in high school, and four years later, I'm better able to articulate why: unlike Lucie and Madame Defarge, he is a mix of vice and virtue. He's complex and morally grey. Unlike the other two, he's an actual person.Apart from Lucie's role as a Mary Sue, however, A Tale of Two Cities is a good read. As others have noted, it's rather slow in the beginning, but the thrill and suspense woven into the last quarter of the book makes waiting out the slow build worth it.read more
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This is the first book I read by Dickens, and I am definitely glad that I did because after reading this book I want to read more Dickens. It was great to finally read the opening lines of the book, after listening to people quote it all my life. It was a little difficult for me to get into the book, but about half way through it started getting very interesting and exciting. I loved that Dickens had two stories going on in the book and how they connected and inertwined. Tale of Two Cities is definitely a book that I will read many times in the future.read more
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A Tale of Two Cities offers a swift, exciting story and an unforgettable rendering of the French Revolution, in a lethal, vengeful and exiguous Paris and a tranquil London. This novel as Dickens's most memorable effort to see a world in a very confined space indeed: a work very short by its nature and yet in which hundreds, even thousands of people do appear in a state of belligerence. The book is riddled with the howling mobs, epic scenes and tightly packed incidents that concentrate on a few central characters. It is an intimate piece of work, which somehow deftly evokes the epic presence of crowds and the vast movements of history, as well as the engrossing terror and compassion of individual characters. Within the condensations of historical time, the lives of the characters play themselves out. Besides the dreadful Madame Defarge of whose power derives from her surreptitious but all engrossing lust for vengeance on the Evremonde family (aristocrats), Dickens is particularly concerned with three men, all obsessed with the same dreamy, beautiful and svelte figure of desire: Lucie Manette. Doctor Manette, who had been for 18 years jailed by the Evremonde in the Bastille to cover up its atrocious crimes, reveals much more fully his character through actions than by mere dialogue and introspection. Realizing his tormented imprisonment that has thrown him into a delirious repression as strength, he announces himself to the Revolutionists and pleads for Charles Darnay's life and liberty. An heir of the Evremonde family but lives under the name Darnay in England, his ambiguous historical guilt is converged through a crucial historical ellipsis. The other central figure is Sydney Carton; a lawyer with thwarted ambition that takes on a mythical aspect at the end to save his friends and so to fulfill his promise. If Charles Darnay is the society's innocent victim who suffers because of the sins of his forefathers and of Madame Defarge's inveterate hatred of the aristocrats, Sydney Carton, who suffers from an inexplicable melancholy, is the sacrificial hero who redeems those sins in an re-enactment of Christ's expiatory death. The novel is also redolent of the theme of resurrection: the release of people from the realm of death and from their own morbid isolation. The novel begins with the rescue of Doctor Manette from the proximity of the Bastille. Apprehension, repression and revulsion weigh in his mind and make it difficult for him to utter a word upon the topic that oppresses him. There has always been a strong and extraordinary revival of the excruciating train of thought and remembrance that are the first cause of his malady. Charles Darnay, who is accused by being a traitor and forfeit to the French people, has to be rescued from the realm of death, or more precisely, the wrath of Madame Defarge by, ironically, Doctor Manette. Imbued from her childhood with a brooding sense of wrong, she is utterly implacable and inimical. She is intransigent to recognize in her determination to exterminate the entire Evremondes insanity. The inveteracy of her pursuit is unfathomable for she is completely deprived of pity and compassion. Her surreptitious, conspired management of Charles Darnay's arrest is cunning but not without immense cruelty. The scheme manifests in a woven form, or knitting, which represents calculation, patience, pertinence, and an urge to retaliate. The doctor realizes that up to that time, his imprisonment and repression have been associated in the minds of others with his personal affliction, deprivation and weakness. But he feels now, that his suffering is strength and power with which he can deliver Charles Darnay. The urge to returning to France has passed through his mind often as he cannot help thinking and having had some sympathy for the miserable people. Letter from an old servant who is in peril rouses the latent uneasiness in his mind to a vigorous resolution. One can immediately discern Darnay's futile attempt to save the servant and win influence with the revolutionists in order to do good, for no sooner has he arrived in Paris than he languishes in jail. The lack of reason and pity on Madame Defarge'' behalf is exposed to the fullest extent as one realizes how she has cunningly managed and manipulated the actions behind the scenes by letting Doctor Manette expend his force in a mock victory, accusing Darnay and re-arresting him, arraigning him to a new trial, and using the doctor's own manuscript on which written his confession and curse of his persecutors hidden in the Bastille against Darnay. All this Madame Defarge has premeditated in order to lure Darnay back to Paris and put whom on trial as a former aristocrat and a member of the very culpable Evremonde family who also happens to wrong the doctor. The root of all the terror and bloodthirst, or even the Revolution, under Dickens's hand in this novel, is Madame Defarge's hatred for the Evremonde who had caused the death of her family. She is therefore the revolutionary impulse incarnate who is held together by class-hatred. Stony, absorbed in her knitting, seemingly unobservant, she is in absolute control of the mob. With her indomitable will she seem less a person than a force of destiny. She might have imbued the mob with her incendiary speeches but the real diabolism of the revolutionary mob rests in its overweening arrogance, its god-like assumption of power over the lives of the French people. Portrayal of the Revolution is achieved through an acceleration of events such as the arrest on mere suspicion, the mock trials and sheer murderousness. Lastly the concept of martyrdom contained within the novel is to a good deal paradoxical: a Christianly, self-sacrificial death with a resurrection context and a prophetic countenance that brings together and contrasts ideas of justice and mercy. It echoes with the opening paradox "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...."read more
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One of Dickens' most exciting stories, this novel is a great place for someone to start reading this classic (but sometimes long-winded) author.read more
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I loved this classic, and am sorry I didn't read it well during high school. His characters are lovingly created and poignant. The picture of the French revolution is bleak and expresses the horror of mass uprisings and the base human desire for power.read more
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This book is my all time favorite book
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I loved this book. I wasn't so sure about it as I started reading, but the way everything tied together at the end won me over.
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2005, Naxos Audiobooks, Read by Anton Lesser“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” I’ve loved those opening lines since forever, but somehow I’ve not read A Tale of Two Cities until now. As is always my experience with Dickens, I was spellbound by his haunting portrayal of the human condition. Here, his juxtaposition of “La Guillotine,” the excessively privileged and inhumanly cruel French aristocracy, with “Hunger,” the brutalized and starving peasant class, is so convincing that there could hardly have been a result other than the French Revolution. Still, I found it interesting that while Dickens is clear about the reprehensible brutishness of the nobility and the need for social justice , he does not condone the disturbing violence of the revolutionaries, a blight which creates its own stain, and perpetuates still more human suffering.“Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrels carry the day’s wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in one realization, Guillotine. And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.” (Bk 3, Ch 15)I thoroughly enjoyed A Tale of Two Cities: powerful, plot-driven, superbly written, and historically fascinating. Favourite characters are Dr. Manette, “recalled to life” from his shoemaker’s bench after a lengthy and wrongful imprisonment; and Sidney Carton, the most self-aware character in the novel, who, in making the ultimate sacrifice, redeems himself from a selfish, wasted life. That said, if I have a criticism of the novel it is that I missed the incredible richness of character I’ve come to expect from Dickens. Lucie, for instance, is all golden-haired goodness; but I know little about her beyond that, and I so wanted more! There’s much less intimacy of private life here. The singular motivation is the Revolution. Anton Lesser, narrator of this audiobook, is fabulous! A Tale of Two Cities is highly recommended for lovers of Dickens, the classics, and historical fiction.
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The story of a group of Englishmen and French expatriates at the time of the French Revolution.
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This book is definitely one of the best from the master: a terrific story and a well-crafted novel. Dickens tells the tale of several characters who travel between London and Paris over the course of many years, spanning a period before/during/in the wake of the French Revolution – an historical novel from Dickens’ perspective, as well as ours. The characters will be familiar to his readers – the elderly father, the loving daughter, the fine man who loves her, the dedicated friends who support them, and a few comic characters thrown in for spice. But he has also given us several characters whose natures are difficult to parse; some are good although they appear evil, others are worse than we expected, and more than one is redeemed by the power of love. The story takes unexpected turns and gains speed through the tension of a brutal war escalating out of control and catching our characters in its net. As a bonus, Dickens resists his tendency to leave his serious storytelling for extraneous chapters of satiric abuse on his favorite targets – the businessmen, the con men, the government clerks, the wealthy and pompous. Here he weaves his satire in along the way, and it works better as a part of the whole. The only downside is that this story has been made into so many films and TV shows, and has been so often quoted and retold, that the reader may already have a sense of the story arc and be in for fewer surprises. But don’t worry; there will be plenty to carry you along in this truly classic tale.
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The very last scene was moving. Inearly cried.
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This is a great book! It is about the lives of several people who live in London and Paris about the time leading up to the French Revolution. Is has a lot of passion and it is a heroic book with tragedy, but with a great ending.I read this book in high school. It was a hard read, but one I have never forgotten. Dickens does make it a bit difficult to read, but I got through it fine with the help of a great English teacher.I can think of many ideas of ways to use this book in the classroom. If this is a 9 or 10th grade class I could break them into groups and have them choose from 3 or 4 project ideas that I have. One could be to build a replica of the city with the guillotine in the center of the city or Bastille. The other would be to create a newspaper using the significant happenings in the book as headlines. They could even do a skit of one of the more memorable scenes from the book.
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I like history, so I was interested in this book. Though this story is fiction, the last part of this book was really barbarous. They could live in such a time because there was a true love. I was moved by the beauty of people's mind.
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This is a great story; artfully crafted, beautiful imagery, powerful emotions. It is a tragedy that Dickens never knew that he would touch so many, but such is the life of the unknown artist. I was drawn (as many are) to Sydney Carton, the embodiment of tragedy and beauty. I also listened to the audio book read by Frank Muller. I thought the story couldn't be more moving until it was performed by an extraordinary vocal actor.
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I love History, but this was a tad too slow.
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Very different to the other Dickens novels I have read. This is a little more cryptic, and more adventurous in its prose style. I particularly admired the style in which the dialogue during the early court case was handled. Everyone is familiar with the line that occurs right at the end of this novel, though it is worth ploughing through the sometimes tricky plot, to find out exactly how the quote fits in.
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This is a great, moving account of two men during the French Revolution. One man has it all, the other has nothing. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." A must for readers of the classics!
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This book has one of the greatest opening statements and also one of the greatest closing statements in all of literature. I've read it more than once, and every time the ending leaves me in tears. Each time I read it, I discover something I overlooked in my previous readings. It hadn't sunk in until this time through how long a time span is covered in the book – from the American Revolution to the French Revolution, a period of 15-20 years. I always had a mental image of Lucy as a young woman, but she must be approaching middle age by the end of the book.I think Dickens' real genius is in his characters and the world they inhabit. Although the plot details grow fuzzy between readings, the characters remain alive: Dr. Manette and his shoe bench; Mrs. Cruncher and her floppin'; Madame Defarge and her knitting; Sidney Carton, ever conscious of his moral weakness, yet capable of one great act of courage and sacrifice. This novel is on my top ten list, and it's one that I think everyone should read at least once.
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The best thing about the novel is the catchy title and opening sentence. After that you have to be a masochist to follow the plot which is convoluted, plodding and worst of all for Dickens, humorless. Somehow I got through it, mercifully one of his shorter novels. It's worth pointing out it was among the least popular novels during Dickens' lifetime, only two others sold less. It sold perhaps 5% what Bleak House did. In the 20th century the popularity of A Tale of Two Cities increased mainly because it was assigned to students due to the combination of short length and the history lesson of the French Revolution, presumably making it a good teaching novel. Oprah included it in her book club because it was short and had a familiar title. It's time the novel returned to its former place at the bottom of the list alongside Barnaby Rudge and clear room for the neglected masterpieces like Dombey and Son andNicholas Nickleby.
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One of my favourite Dickens novels, with a gripping plot and memorable characters, and an ending that will make the strongest man sob like a child.
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The period from 1775 - the outbreak of the American Revolution - to 1789 - the storming of the Bastille - is the turbulent setting of this uncharacteristic Dickens novel. It is his only novel that lacks comic relief, is one of only two that are not set in nineteenth-century England and is also unusual in lacking a primary central character. London and Paris are the real protagonists in this tale, much as the cathedral was the 'hero' of Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris. Dickens was writing at a time of great turmoil in his personal life, having just separated from his wife, and no doubt the revolutionary theme was in tune with his mental state.
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Grandpa Farrell gave me this book because he saw how much i loved to read.
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Reading A Tale of Two Cities was a breath of fresh air during a stressful time sophomore year. I admire Dickens' ability to create a complex storyline and perfectly tie everything together in the end of the story. Since I liked this book, which had a strong background in the French Revolution, I am going to look into other history based books. I feel A Tale of Two Cities broadened my understanding of what great storytelling can accomplish- an interest in reading based on social commentaries and an intricate love story. I feel that my appreciation for this book requires a reread of Great Expectations. I may have read that book immaturely, and it is worth another look.
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enjoyable; not much different from the movie; lacked the depth of Bleak House
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The core challenge when constructing a historical novel is that, for every building block used--plot, character, theme--the author has to find a balance for the modern story he's trying to tell and the historical setting he's chosen for it. To crowd out story in order to promote history (which seems to be what people who complain about historical inaccuracy in movies generally want) leads to a very boring novel; conversely, to ignore history for the sake of story leads to writing so frustratingly atrocious it's often impossible to finish the book.And I've never seen those two concerns balanced better than Dickens manages in A Tale of Two Cities. The characters are utterly products of their time--the scion of ancien regime French nobility who seeks moderate reform but, when he's unable to achieve it, ends up a victim of the very classes of society he was trying to help; the middle-class physician who must piece himself back together after being shattered by two decades false imprisonment in the Bastille; the cunning plotter who masterminds the French Revolution from her husband's wineshop--but their aspirations and fears caught the imaginations of Dickens's readers in 1859 just as they do for readers today. And the events of their lives, which Dickens builds into a story of love, martyrdom, resurrection and--famously--of redemption through self-sacrifice (again, all powerful themes to people of any age, but particularly well-suited for a story of the French Revolution), are woven seamlessly into the events of the 1780s and 90s. This is a story that could not have been told of 1859--or of our own day--but that nevertheless speaks powerfully to peoples of all times.On top of which, in Madame Defarge you have one of the most sinister villains I've ever read, her creepiness only compounded when we learn her family history and realise that we can't actually condemn her actions.
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Okay, so technically I haven't finished reading it but as far as I am concerned I have. Let's not be pedantic about this - I read over half and found it so excruciatingly tiresome that I couldn't force myself through the remaining pages. I looked up what happened next on wikipedia and concluded that nothing much happened next that would validate me wasting more hours or days dragging myself through a book I did not like.For a book that is "One of the most beloved of Dickens' stories" according to the quote on the front cover or "The greatest of his historical novels" I feel very cheated and rather sad too.This book starts with the famous opener: "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."That is fantastic! Reading that I thought I was going to be onto a good 'un! However, just shows that you can't judge a book by its opening paragraph.I have loved Bleak House, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol so it's a shame I find myself giving two stars to an author I have loved in the past. I'm glad this was not my first Dickens as I do not think I would have read any others. I am very disappointed in this book as well as in part, myself for not finishing it. This would have made a much better short story I believe. There was not a plot worth speaking of and the characters were all very thin and one dimensional. Much of the French revolution was described in metaphors and complex symbolism unravelling it all was a bit like trying to find your way through a maze.I have loved Dicken's writing style, it is beautiful, humorous and full of heart, soul and humanity. However, this time it felt like digging my way through a lot of surplus words which had lost their effect long before I could appreciate them. I don't know what got into Dickens when writing this book. It felt very empty and devoid of his usual humour and interesting characters. I can't wait to read another one of his and put this one firmly at the back of my memory so that I can once again hold a high opinion of Charles Dickens.
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I don't do abridged. I cordially despise abridgements. Reader's Digest Condensed versions? Abominations. But this particular abridgement is an audiobook read by Tom Baker. I will listen to a calendar read by Tom Baker. I think I would even listen to Sarah Palin's autobiography read by Tom Baker. (Maybe.) Tom Baker is magnificent. He's Tom Baker. His voice is deep and rich and pleasurable as the center of a dark chocolate truffle. When Dickens' humor comes out in the text, Baker's amused tone deepens it. In more dramatic moments, the passion in his voice is tangible. His characters are beautiful. Truly, I don't think he put a foot wrong in the whole lamentably short reading. Oh, and Dickens is pretty fantastic too. One of many reasons I curse the school system is that it made me hate Dickens for a while there. I resent that. This is a gorgeous story – and yes, I will be reading the unbutchered version before long. As I've said so often this year about so many books, I read A Tale of Two Cities a very long time ago, and had forgotten quite a bit. As these things go, I think this audiobook – from Audible – was a very good abridgement. Quite a lot of dialogue and a fair amount of character development was retained (though not the revelations about Madame DeFarge's knitting); I wouldn't want to sit listening to this with the book in hand, but whatever reason there was to cut the book down, at least they did it rather well. But I'd pay good money (if I had it) to hear the whole 400-500 page novel read by Tom Baker. Or, you know, the phone book.
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Not Dickens' best work... his second attempt at an historical novel is rather less skilled than the first. Combines the faintly irritating sentimentality of "Oliver Twist" with the lack of planning and consequent improbability of "Pickwick"
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This is my favorite Dickens because it contains a bit more history than his other works. I love the picture it presents of the French Revolution and its effect on Europe.
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A Tale of Two Cities tells the tale of the French Revolution of 1978, and the times leading up to the Revolution, as it affects multiple characters from multiple socioeconomic backgrounds. The novel paints a vivid picture of the poorest of French citizens and the way in which their lives contrast with the overly glorified, gluttonous lives of the rich to emphasize the tension before the revolution. At the same time, the author incorporates aspects of the characters personal lives which creates a more realistic picture of the Revolution.There are two major protagonists in Dicken’s novel: Charles Darnay, the non-clichéd aristocrat who resides in England, and Sydney Carton, the stubborn attorney. Although I found both of these characters to be interesting, I had a hard time understanding the motives of their actions. In my opinion, I thought that the character development was slightly weak and because of this, I was not able to understand the two characters to the extent that I would have liked. I did, however, enjoy the way Dickens set Carton’s character as a foil for the character of Darnay. The evil, somewhat malicious personality of Carton contrasts with the more agreeable personality of Darnay, even though the two are both in love with the character of Lucie. The novel is set in third person limited point of view, which allows readers to view the heavy contrast between the different social classes. If Dickens had chosen to write in a first person point of view, readers would only have viewed the story from an extremely narrow window and would not have been able to understand the disparity between the rich and the poor, which was a major theme throughout the novel. This third person limited point of view used also allowed readers to read about very minute characters, characters of no vital importance to the story, which ultimately, helped reinforce the tension between the rich and poor. One of my favorite scenes in the entire novel follows a man named Marquis Evrémonde, a cruel member of the aristocracy. As the Marquis is riding down the countryside, his carriage runs over and murders a young boy of a lower class family. The marquis shows no sympathy for the boy he kills and continues on his way. Later, Marquis Evrémonde is punished for his action, in a very surprising way (I won’t give too much away). Although Marquis Evrémonde’s character never again appears in the novel, it was interesting to read about this man and his murderous actions and deserved punishments. I was very impressed with the author’s use of foreshadowing in A Tale of Two Cities as well. There were many times in the novel that indicated similar events to come. For example, my favorite scene involving Marquis Evrémonde foreshadows an uprising between the upper and lower classes and the death of the aristocracy. In addition to Dicken’s use of foreshadowing, there was also quite a lot of symbolism in the novel. Madame Defarge, a wine shop owner in France, spends her days knitting names into a woven piece of fabric. These names represent the people who are going to die due to the French Revolution. The quickness that Defarge knits these names into the fabric represents the informalities and immense numbers of deaths due to the revolution. Overall, I would recommend A Tale of Two Cities to anyone with a desire to read a classic, yet very thought provoking novel. Dicken’s use of foreshadowing and symbolism keeps the reader thinking, and the somewhat disturbing topic of the French Revolution keeps the reader intrigued.
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Like many other reviewers, I was required to read this during my secondary school days. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and how readable I found Dickens compared to other British authors of "great books" (I'm looking at you, Jane Austen). With my fondness for this classic in mind, I recently reread the book again, and while I still found it enjoyable, I thought the story suffered from the characterization of Lucie Manette. Almost every scene involving the good doctor's daughter has one of her male comrades or family members remarking on her goodness, her beauty, her strength of character, etc. when we almost never actually SEE this goodness and strength--they're just asserted through other characters' thoughts and actions.These traits contrast starkly with those of the dastardly Madame Defarge, but to me the two characters are ironically similar in that just as Madame Defarge is unlikeable for her total cruelty, Lucie is also unlikeable for her total goodness, which is a reader response I'm sure Dickens did not intend to provoke. Sydney Carton was my favorite character when I first read this in high school, and four years later, I'm better able to articulate why: unlike Lucie and Madame Defarge, he is a mix of vice and virtue. He's complex and morally grey. Unlike the other two, he's an actual person.Apart from Lucie's role as a Mary Sue, however, A Tale of Two Cities is a good read. As others have noted, it's rather slow in the beginning, but the thrill and suspense woven into the last quarter of the book makes waiting out the slow build worth it.
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This is the first book I read by Dickens, and I am definitely glad that I did because after reading this book I want to read more Dickens. It was great to finally read the opening lines of the book, after listening to people quote it all my life. It was a little difficult for me to get into the book, but about half way through it started getting very interesting and exciting. I loved that Dickens had two stories going on in the book and how they connected and inertwined. Tale of Two Cities is definitely a book that I will read many times in the future.
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A Tale of Two Cities offers a swift, exciting story and an unforgettable rendering of the French Revolution, in a lethal, vengeful and exiguous Paris and a tranquil London. This novel as Dickens's most memorable effort to see a world in a very confined space indeed: a work very short by its nature and yet in which hundreds, even thousands of people do appear in a state of belligerence. The book is riddled with the howling mobs, epic scenes and tightly packed incidents that concentrate on a few central characters. It is an intimate piece of work, which somehow deftly evokes the epic presence of crowds and the vast movements of history, as well as the engrossing terror and compassion of individual characters. Within the condensations of historical time, the lives of the characters play themselves out. Besides the dreadful Madame Defarge of whose power derives from her surreptitious but all engrossing lust for vengeance on the Evremonde family (aristocrats), Dickens is particularly concerned with three men, all obsessed with the same dreamy, beautiful and svelte figure of desire: Lucie Manette. Doctor Manette, who had been for 18 years jailed by the Evremonde in the Bastille to cover up its atrocious crimes, reveals much more fully his character through actions than by mere dialogue and introspection. Realizing his tormented imprisonment that has thrown him into a delirious repression as strength, he announces himself to the Revolutionists and pleads for Charles Darnay's life and liberty. An heir of the Evremonde family but lives under the name Darnay in England, his ambiguous historical guilt is converged through a crucial historical ellipsis. The other central figure is Sydney Carton; a lawyer with thwarted ambition that takes on a mythical aspect at the end to save his friends and so to fulfill his promise. If Charles Darnay is the society's innocent victim who suffers because of the sins of his forefathers and of Madame Defarge's inveterate hatred of the aristocrats, Sydney Carton, who suffers from an inexplicable melancholy, is the sacrificial hero who redeems those sins in an re-enactment of Christ's expiatory death. The novel is also redolent of the theme of resurrection: the release of people from the realm of death and from their own morbid isolation. The novel begins with the rescue of Doctor Manette from the proximity of the Bastille. Apprehension, repression and revulsion weigh in his mind and make it difficult for him to utter a word upon the topic that oppresses him. There has always been a strong and extraordinary revival of the excruciating train of thought and remembrance that are the first cause of his malady. Charles Darnay, who is accused by being a traitor and forfeit to the French people, has to be rescued from the realm of death, or more precisely, the wrath of Madame Defarge by, ironically, Doctor Manette. Imbued from her childhood with a brooding sense of wrong, she is utterly implacable and inimical. She is intransigent to recognize in her determination to exterminate the entire Evremondes insanity. The inveteracy of her pursuit is unfathomable for she is completely deprived of pity and compassion. Her surreptitious, conspired management of Charles Darnay's arrest is cunning but not without immense cruelty. The scheme manifests in a woven form, or knitting, which represents calculation, patience, pertinence, and an urge to retaliate. The doctor realizes that up to that time, his imprisonment and repression have been associated in the minds of others with his personal affliction, deprivation and weakness. But he feels now, that his suffering is strength and power with which he can deliver Charles Darnay. The urge to returning to France has passed through his mind often as he cannot help thinking and having had some sympathy for the miserable people. Letter from an old servant who is in peril rouses the latent uneasiness in his mind to a vigorous resolution. One can immediately discern Darnay's futile attempt to save the servant and win influence with the revolutionists in order to do good, for no sooner has he arrived in Paris than he languishes in jail. The lack of reason and pity on Madame Defarge'' behalf is exposed to the fullest extent as one realizes how she has cunningly managed and manipulated the actions behind the scenes by letting Doctor Manette expend his force in a mock victory, accusing Darnay and re-arresting him, arraigning him to a new trial, and using the doctor's own manuscript on which written his confession and curse of his persecutors hidden in the Bastille against Darnay. All this Madame Defarge has premeditated in order to lure Darnay back to Paris and put whom on trial as a former aristocrat and a member of the very culpable Evremonde family who also happens to wrong the doctor. The root of all the terror and bloodthirst, or even the Revolution, under Dickens's hand in this novel, is Madame Defarge's hatred for the Evremonde who had caused the death of her family. She is therefore the revolutionary impulse incarnate who is held together by class-hatred. Stony, absorbed in her knitting, seemingly unobservant, she is in absolute control of the mob. With her indomitable will she seem less a person than a force of destiny. She might have imbued the mob with her incendiary speeches but the real diabolism of the revolutionary mob rests in its overweening arrogance, its god-like assumption of power over the lives of the French people. Portrayal of the Revolution is achieved through an acceleration of events such as the arrest on mere suspicion, the mock trials and sheer murderousness. Lastly the concept of martyrdom contained within the novel is to a good deal paradoxical: a Christianly, self-sacrificial death with a resurrection context and a prophetic countenance that brings together and contrasts ideas of justice and mercy. It echoes with the opening paradox "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times...."
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One of Dickens' most exciting stories, this novel is a great place for someone to start reading this classic (but sometimes long-winded) author.
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I loved this classic, and am sorry I didn't read it well during high school. His characters are lovingly created and poignant. The picture of the French revolution is bleak and expresses the horror of mass uprisings and the base human desire for power.
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