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Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Introduction of "A Tale of Two Cities"  by Charles Dickens

Dickens (1812-1870), a 19th-century British writer. "A Tale of Two Cities" can be called the pinnacle of his late years. During the French Revolution, the famous doctor Manette accidentally witnessed the atrocities committed by the feudal aristocrats, the Evremond brothers, who killed them in the grass camp. 

He was thrown into the Bastille and imprisoned for eighteen years because of the injustice. After being released from prison, Manette's daughter Lucy fell in love with the enemy's son Danai. Thus, in the vortex of the French Revolution, scenes of family grievances and hatreds were staged grandly. Good, evil, life, and death merged in conflict and changed in an instant... 

"A Tale of Two Cities" has a strict structure and condensed language. Dickens's relationship with the revolution The deep thinking of human nature and the breathtaking writing talent are fully demonstrated in it.
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This novel traces the private lives of a group of people caught up in the cataclysm of the French Revolution and the Terror. Dicken's based his historical detail on Carlyle's "The French Revolution", and his own observations and investigations during his numerous visits to Paris.

About the author 

British novelist, born into a family of small navy staff. When he was 10, his family was forced to move to prison for debtors. At the age of 11, he took on heavy housework. Worked as an apprentice in a leather shoe workshop, at the age of 16, worked as a writer in a law firm, and later as an interview reporter for a newspaper. He only went to school for a few years, and he became a well-known writer through hard self-study and hard work.

He lived in the transitional period of Britain from a semi-feudal society to an industrial capitalist society. His works extensively and profoundly describe all aspects of social life during this period, vividly and vividly portraying the images of representatives of various classes, and exposing and criticizing various ugly social phenomena and their representatives from the perspective of humanitarianism. 

The people's suffering and their resistance struggle to give sympathy and support. But at the same time, he also promoted the thought of forgiveness and class reconciliation centered on "kindness". The contradictory attitude of supporting the working people's resistance in action but denying morally. It shows the strong power and weak fantasy of his realism.

Dickens wrote 14 novels in his lifetime, many novels and short stories, essays, travel notes, dramas, and sketches. Among the most famous works are the long representative work "Tough Times" (1854) describing labor-management contradictions and another representative work "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859) describing the French Revolution in 1789. 

The former demonstrated the cruel exploitation and oppression of workers by industrial capitalists, described the solidarity struggle of the working class and criticized the principle of free competition and utilitarianism that defended capitalist exploitation. The latter used the obscenity and brutality of the French aristocracy, the many sufferings of the people, and the historical power of the French Revolution to allude to the British social reality at that time, and heralded that this "terrible fire" would also repeat itself in France. 

Other works include "Oliver Twist" (also translated "Orphan in the Fog" 1838), "Old Antique Shop" (1841), "Dong Bei and Son" (1848), "David Copperfield" "(1850), and "Great Expectations" (1861), etc.

Dickens is the main representative of English realist literature in the 19th century. Art is famous for its witty humor, meticulous psychological analysis, and the organic combination of realistic description and romantic atmosphere. Marx hailed him and Thackeray as "a group of outstanding novelists" in Britain.

Excerpts from the original text 

That is the best time, that is the worst time; that is the year of wisdom, that is the year of ignorance; that is the time of faith, that is the time of doubt; that is the season of light, that is the season of darkness; It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of disappointment; we all went straight to heaven, we all went straight in the opposite direction.—— Quoted from page 8

Short Comment

The narrative style is typical of 19th-century British realism, exquisite and delicate (Rory Bark). As a best-selling writer at the time, it is an important skill to consciously keep the story suspense during the serialization process, but when it becomes a masterpiece, Spoilers in advance will greatly reduce the charm of the novel. 

Today’s story is remembered the most. In addition to the beginning of the classic and the great victim Caton, there should be Dickens’ attitude towards the French Revolution. Dickens’s thinking about history is by no means profound. It is the humanitarian spirit shared by the literati that play a dominant role in the depths of his thoughts. 

The bloody bourgeois revolution and the feudal rule of human life are just two sides of the coin. The condemnation of violence and terror may also conceal a sense of superiority in the bones of an Englishman (but don't forget, your king was also sent to the guillotine). 

But in general, the spirit of the nineteenth century is revealed in that novel-although society is terrible, driven by the kind nature of people, we will eventually enter beautiful heaven. And this optimism can hardly be traced to the twentieth century.

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Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens


The beginning of "A Tale of Two Cities" is a famous saying: "That was the best time, that was the worst time; that was a wise time, that was an ignorant year; that was a time of full confidence, and that was full of doubts. Period... We are all going straight to heaven, all of us are going straight to hell."

This passage has been widely circulated and has long transcended national boundaries. However, what kind of scene is the coexistence of good and bad? I can understand that "ignorance, doubts, darkness, despair and nothing..." If Dickens felt that "the era is so similar to this era," then I feel more empathetic to the miserable end.

Every day when the news is opened, anger and sorrow are permeated from the report to the reader's reaction-and most of it is anger. People express their hearts in violent language as if they don't have the slightest hope for the possibility of communication. 

The deceived believes that heaven belongs to powerful people, and if you don’t know it, there is also darkness there. Too much news suffocates me. After reading the novel, I found that there is another sentence at the end, which is much less well-known: "What I have done now is far better than everything I have done; I will get far more rest than I know. It's all sweet."-What kind of confidence is needed to say "I have done better than everything I have done" in this era, and what kind of hope is needed to face an unknown rest? 

Dickens described that on the eve of the French Revolution, Britain and France were shrouded in the dusk of the fog. In Britain, people left home and had to send furniture to the warehouse of the furniture store for safekeeping. In the daytime, they were ordinary merchants doing business, but at night they became road blockers The robber; the heinous murderer and the thief who stole 6 pence also received capital punishment.

France is even more terrible. The rulers and the church are extremely corrupt, and the hatred between people is filling all corners of the society like poison gas, and terror is brewing rapidly. In Hugo's writing, all this is the darkness before dawn—for the dawn, the blood and tears in the night can be ignored. There are always too many people who are enemies, and friends, friends are just vacant seats, you dare not say who can sit on it next moment, you are not even sure about yourself.

Under this pressure, many writers can hardly escape the temptation to write about revolution, because injustice is so obvious that there is no way out for the powerful and the powerless. Revenge for blood or annihilation, this is the story Dickens wants to tell, his Tale of Two Cities. At first, I thought that the twin cities only referred to Paris and London, but soon some small people took to the stage, insignificant but concrete, they tore off the label of the twin cities and blurred the line between Paris and London. 

In Paris, we met some people in ragged clothes who seemed to be idle. They were all called "Jacques". They gathered in small hotels and didn't know what was brewing. The hotel owner Defa Day is busy, but not for business. Mrs. Defari did the knitting work without raising her eyes. However, she knew everything about secrets and bloody things and participated in everything. Her face was like a rock, and even men felt chilled when they saw her.

This city, on the one hand, is a nobleman who lives extravagantly on the bones of the poor. Their carriage drove through the market, hitting people to death and leaving a few money away; on the other hand, there are the abject poor people in the dark of the future; and there are these. "Jacques", they sneaked into the mansion of the adults at night and killed one. Mrs. Defari crossed out a person's name from the knitting "record" in her hand-not knowing to cross out the name or life of the person, Which is easier and which is more difficult.

The revolutionaries described by Dickens are not abstract. Most of them are the perpetrators transformed by the sufferers. At first, perhaps out of fear or hatred, they all abandoned their family names for the sake of "justice" and put on the coat of "Jacques" like an executioner. 

For Dickens, no matter what the reason for the revolution, the essence of the revolution remains unchanged, that is, taking human life, the cause is blood, the result is blood, and one city in the twin cities stands up from blood in this way. So where is the other city? 

Different from the banner-style presentation of Paris, Dickens described the violent scene of the sea. He turned his eyes and fixed his eyes on an inconspicuous boat among the waves: here is a French doctor Manette who has been in jail for 18 years. After prison, she was taken to London by her friend and daughter Lucy but suffered from mental illness. 

Lucy lost her parents at this young age. Her husband Dane is a descendant of a French nobleman. He was incognito because he felt that the aristocracy was an injustice to the poor, but still twice. Sentenced to death.

Who are the people in this boat? Some suffering people are just like that city. I don't know why, but these people who have the same hatred of the country and family have not been drawn into the whirlpool of that city-they have no ambitions, they just want to accompany each other and live a peaceful life. 

However, the harshness of an era means that no matter whether you want to parry or not, there will always be some killers to chase from behind. When Dany got into the lawsuit for the first time, it was a man of his age who helped him win the lawsuit, even his appearance. 

This man is called Caton, alcoholic, self-deprecating, and eccentric self-loathing. He was willing to give an untalented lawyer the right moment, because of his alcohol addiction and refusal to greet him, he repeatedly wasted his years, but he suffered from it. 

There are several movie versions of Tale of Two Cities. I found that no matter which version Caton is the number one male and is loved by female audiences, I suspect that he was mostly filmed as a late-blooming hero. In the book, everything is for expression. contradiction. 

It is true that Caton looks handsome, but this appearance has been worn down by alcohol and long-term self-opposition; he is not so talented, it is more shameful than touching because he is unable to fight but will cry secretly; he is very much to Lucy Affectionate, he confessed, not to win love but to declare hopelessness, and asked for mercy: "When you see a beautiful baby like you jumping around your knees, I hope you can sometimes remember that there is such a person in the world, In order to save the life of the person you love, he is willing to sacrifice his life!" 

In real life, people like Caton have no aura, because most people are afraid and hate the incompetent who loses their fighting spirit, like his superiors. Yang Yang said to him: "Look at how I did it before? How do I do it now? Your way of life is always a bad way."

Dickens used many foreshadowings to describe this clue and sometimes shelved it temporarily, which prevented me from connecting it to what happened in Paris for a long time. I don't understand why he wrote about the trivial life of such a group of people. 

In the atmosphere of the Revolution, the small family and the small group always have difficulty standing up because "a British man's home is his fortress" has lost its legitimacy. What is legal? At first, it seemed righteous.

Mrs. Defari grew up as a nemesis and revolutionary leader, not because of anything else, but because her family died tragically at the hands of the Marquis. She does have a reason to hate, but is there any reason for her determination to wipe out their family? She deduced from her experience that all hostile classes should die. Is there any reason? In the end, things have grown to the point that anyone who opposes the revolution or even disagrees with her, has to lose their heads. What about this weird justice?

"Since she was a child, she has been wronged and has a deep hatred of the hostile class. When the time comes, she gradually becomes a tigress. She has no compassion." Dickens said that many women are influenced by the trend of the times. , "Horribly changed." I have to sigh that the novelists at that time were still ambitious and dared to tackle difficult problems. 

In Hugo's opinion, the people of the great revolution stood up, although in "Les Miserables", it is quite ambiguous who is the "people". If the privileged class is unworthy of being a people because of their sins, then must the oppressed have clean hands? Who gives one person the right to deprive another person of life? As soon as the "Jacques" turned into a large group, they had strength with the guillotine. Are these new perpetrators who have grown up in a pool of blood, are they still the people?

Hugo regarded the revolution as a force to sweep the darkness, and in Dickens's writings, the Great Revolution was one of "the human imagination created countlessly insatiable and unsatisfied monsters". The symbol of the Great Revolution is the guillotine. 

The interesting thing is, yes. This Dickens did not expand the discussion but just said lightly: "It replaced the cross." cross. This is another tradition they have used to fight against the guillotine for more than 1,700 years. This tradition originated from a man who is said to have never been involved in sin, and he has never wronged anyone. In order to prove that love does not count human evil, and life is better than death-he does not hesitate to suffer poverty, humiliation, humiliation, death, and he is hung on the cross without complaint. 

If he wants to collect debts, all those who stand under the cross He was not immune, but before he died, he only said one sentence: "Father forgive them, because they don't know what they have done." Hugo mentioned Jesus as if he was a hero, a kind of noble. The incarnation of the spirit inspires more people to win glory with their own efforts; Dickens mentioned that Jesus always died for a person when someone was heartbroken or someone was about to die, and he was resurrected, and he became countless people who were about to die. 

The comfort and hope in people's hearts. Dickens insisted on this belief in all his novels and used it to break the impenetrable world of the iron barrel. As a result, the originally hidden line was suddenly highlighted: Dane returned to Paris when he was most dangerous and was sentenced to death in order to save the butler who was persecuted for serving their home. 

Manette and Lucy, together with their servants and a friends-a group of five people did not hesitate to follow to France and share the troubles with Dane. Carton also came to Paris for Lucy's sake. This boat looks fragile and has no resistance in the face of the violence that is about to press down. It is like a cart, a big dog, and a big guillotine that used to resist the old men. 

It is also like today's old men turned into a guillotine. A piece of grass. What can a group of people without force do? Dickens mentioned again that Caton and Dane look very similar, and Caton seems to be an unscrupulous version of Dane. This information is trembling. How can an unarmed person save another who is bound to die? Yes, one kind of death is substituted for another kind of death.

At this point, I suddenly felt that Dickens suppressed hope so low in the first half of the story, just to bring it up at the last moment. It challenges humanity. Why did Carton die for Dane? This person is so similar to him but far better than him in everything. Why did Carton die for Dane? Dane is dead, maybe Lucy will become his one day. 

We can easily understand the ideas of revolution, but it is difficult to realize sacrifice. Caton decided to die in place of Dane because he loved Lucy, he chose to love what she loved. He secretly arranged plans to provide the most comprehensive protection for the boat to go to safety. He used the ingenuity rescued from alcohol and regret to make it serve to love for the last time. Dane didn’t know all of this. 

He said to Lucy, “I want to give my love a farewell blessing. We will meet again where the needy can rest!” On the other side, the servant of Manet’s house In order to prevent Mrs. Defari from catching up with the doctor's family, Miss Pross had a desperate fight with her. Dickens told her: "Love is always more powerful than hate."

What about Caton? What did he get for this lonely man who went to death? "Jesus said that the resurrection is with me, and the life is with me. Those who believe in me will be resurrected even though they die. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die." Before Caton was imprisoned, he encountered a misjudgment by the Revolutionary Committee. Poor tailor. They accompany each other like passengers who have been seated, towards the end. She told him:

"Dear stranger, without you, I would not have been so calm, because I was born a poor little person, very timid... Thinking of the executed Lord makes us still pregnant here today. Hope and comfort. I think you were given to me by heaven." These are the sources of courage that people in the boat used to resist wind and waves. 

They don't want to die. If they can, they wish they could spend this journey peacefully together. However, they are not afraid if they are really going to die, because they believe that suffering and death are not the whole things. There is a truly beautiful country waiting at the end of the world, and that is the eternal hometown. They don't need to snatch and sweep anyone from their front to get there. As long as they love each other, they can say with confidence:

"What I have done now is far better than everything I have done; the rest I will get is far sweeter than everything I know."




Reading notes

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.

First version: The saint of time, the evil of time. This is also the world of ignorance, this is also the world of wisdom. This is also the light season, and this is also the bleak season. This is also a year of conviction, and this is also a year of great confusion. This is also a beautiful sunny spring, and this is also a poor winter. Man or all things have, man or nothing can be accomplished. The clouds of my generation are straight up, and the springs of my generation will fall forever. At that time, people of insight said that the good and evil in the world may be the ultimate, and there must be a foundation for everything, and it is impossible to control. But the habit of living is okay.

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