Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Charles Dickens -- A Tale of Two Cities 2



“I think Dickens was just absolutely amazing. You've been spoiled by easy reading, my dear.” So says my dear friend Grace. And she's probably right. :-)
While looking through several libraries, I had difficulty finding any books by Dickens or Jane Austen. I am not even looking for other authors, as of yet, but I imagine they're as hard to find. So I came to the erroneous conclusion that Dickens and company was going out of style. :-) But I found out differently when I posted on FB and on my blog.
My friend Cheri is reading “Pickwick Papers”. She also found it hard to establish a connection with the author but decided that it came with time. As with friendship, some of the best ones take effort to make it work.
Another friend of mine wrote that he loves Dickens; in particular this book. “But I guess I'm not so analytical when it comes to fiction. I tend to speed read (a book like that takes an evening) and so I take the general drift and many impressions.” Usually, I speed read as well. It came as a habit from trying to check out the books before my younger siblings got to them so I could hide the ones that weren't appropriate for their age level. ;-) LOL! (Big sisters rock!) But I found that after reading 200 books about the holocaust, even though I could tell you all about the emotions, the horror, the quick glimpses, etc, etc, of that period of history, I could not tell you very many exact details. I could probably slip through life with what I have, but I want excellence. :-) And excellence means reading every word... and sometimes analyzing. Of course, someday, when/if I ever read Two Cities again, I'll probably speed read. ;-)
Periodicals. Thanks for mentioning that, Donzel. Amazing to think of this book being printed piece by piece in a magazine. Sometimes I think I have been born about one hundred years too late. ;-) It would be fun to get paid for writing... and learning how to write with a deadline hanging over me would be a good experience.
But that aside, it does explain why there is an amount of drama that seems overdone in book form. :-) I was comparing it to Louisa May Alcott's “Little Women”, which wasn't fair because that story was printed in book form from the first (if I read about it correctly). Also, I have read a lot of Louis L'Amour's work and I find a distinct difference in his short stories and his books.

I think I was in chapter five when I suddenly connected to the author for the first time... and actually began to enjoy the book. It's been kind of an on and off thing since then but I have found several pages very enjoyable. But, I must agree with my friend Lydia in that the humor is what saves Dickens from being a total bore. :-) Yes, I am spoiled!
Here are a few observations again...

* * * *

“...and there was many a good south wall, not far off, on which the peaches ripened in their season.”
Can't you just see it? He does have a way with words that leaves such a picture in the mind.
“If you had sent the message, 'Recalled to Life,' again, “ muttered Jerry, as he turned, “I should have known what you meant, this time.”

Dickens almost considered this phrase of, “Recalled to Life” for the title of the book. It is a theme that seems to run close by throughout the story, as we see here. It lends such scope for the imagination. :-) It can be applied to many things: salvation, Springtime, release from bondage (such as Mr. Manette was), composing (for I sometimes imagine that all music existed at one point and we're merely bringing it to life again), or literally, someone who has physically died and is brought back to life by physical means or by miracle.

“She was the golden thread that united him to a Past beyond his misery, and to a Present beyond his misery...”

What a beautiful sentiment! I can think of several people and things that connect me with the good memories around the difficult ones. I think God gives us both... the pleasant and joyous to remind us how much He loves us and the hard things to show us how much we need Him.
“Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities, and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.”

Sydney Carton... what a sad character. It is a good reminder for myself to use the gifts God has given me to the fullest extent that I can.
' “Doctor Manette at home?”
Expected home.
“Miss Lucie at home?”
Expected home.
“Miss Pross at home?”
'Possibly at home but of a certainty impossible for handmaid to anticipate intentions of Miss Pross, as to admission or denial of the fact.

“And why wonder at that?” was the abrupt inquiry that made him start.
It proceeded from Miss Pross, the wild red woman, strong of hand whose acquaintance he had first made at the Royal George Hotel at Dover, and had since improved.
“I should have thought--” Mr. Lorry began.
“Pooh! You'd have thought!” said Miss Pross; and Mr. Lorry left off.
“How do you do?” inquired that lady then – sharply, and yet as if to express that she bore him no malice.
“I am pretty well, I thank you,” answered Mr. Lorry, with meekness, “how are you?”
“Nothing to boast of,” said Miss Pross.
“Indeed?”
“Ah! Indeed!,” said Miss Pross. “I am very much put out about my ladybird.”
“Indeed?”
“For gracious sake say something else besides 'indeed,' or you'll fidget me to death,” said Miss Pross...
“Really, then?” said Mr. Lorry, as an amendment.
“Really, is bad enough,” returned Miss Pross, “but better.”

' “There never was, nor will be, but one man worthy of ladybird,” said Miss Pross; “and that was my brother Solomon, if he hadn't made a mistake in life.”
' Here again: Mr. Lorry's inquiries into Miss Pross's personal history, had established the fact that her brother Solomon was a heartless scoundrel who had stripped her of every thing she possessed as a stake to speculate with, and had abandoned her in her poverty for evermore, with no touch of compunction. Miss Pross's fidelity of belief in Solomon (deducting a mere trifle for this slight mistake)... '

Love is blind; love is patient; love is forbearing; love is believing the best; love is hopeful; love is tender; love is just plain stupid sometimes. :-P

' “Do you imagine--” Mr. Lorry had begun, when Miss Pross took him up short with:
“Never imagine any thing. Have no imagination at all.”
“I stand corrected; do you suppose – you go so far as to suppose, sometimes?”
“Now and then,” said Miss Pross. '

The more I read of Miss Pross, the more I love her. She is so blunt, so funny in her sincere way and so innocent. I would not want to be her in all of her qualities, but she is fun to read about and think of who she reminds me of. :-)

“Simple as the furniture was, it was set off by so many little adornments, of no value but for their taste and fancy, that its effect was delightful. The disposition of every thing in the rooms, from the largest object to the least; the arrangement of colors, the elegant variety and contrast obtained by thrift in trifles, by delicate hands, clear eyes, and good sense; were at once to pleasant in themselves, and so expressive of their originator...”

My friend Lydia tells me that Dickens books were what first made her determined to be a true lady. Part of being a lady, I think, is being able to attractively decorate your home. That being said, please don't come see my room. LOL! (I am the family's pack rat... if you want neatness, Hannah is the one.) Of course, (ahem!) not all of the ladyship qualities reside in decorating. Shall I quote Caroline Bingley? “There is something in her carriage, a certain air about her...” LOL! You can be the lady in Caroline all you want but if you have her attitude, all that lady-ness isn't going to serve you in eternity.
Still, I intend to keep a cleaner room. ;-)

“These, however, were only the exceptions required to prove the rule that the sparrows in the plane tree behind the house, and the echoes in the corner before it, had their own way from Sunday morning unto Saturday night.”

“Not only would the echoes die away, as though the steps had gone; but the echoes of other steps that never came, would be heard in their stead, and would die away for good when they seemed close at hand.
“...the wonderful corner for echoes resounded with the echoes of footsteps coming and going, yet not a footstep there.
' “... I have sometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have made the echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by-and-by into our lives.” '

Another friend of mine wrote me saying how much he loved the imagery and echoes of the footsteps. I can see why. Dickens wording lends a sense of rhythm and graceful movement... almost like a song or poetry. I love Miss Manette's thought of the echoes of footsteps being those that are eventually coming into our lives. But maybe I just love to imagine things. :-)

I love how Dickens connects the word 'business' in all ways to Mr. Lorry! “his business eye”, “I am but a dull business man,” “A business man such as yourself...” “said the man of business.”

Monsieur The Marquis In Town begins with ceremonies involving chocolate. I refuse to criticize this chapter in the least! ;-) But, my word, I am completely in awe at the length of seventh paragraph.

“People not immediately connected with Monseigneur or the State, yet equally unconnected with any thing that was real, or with lives passed in traveling by any straight road to any true earthly end, were no less abundant.”

I do know people like this. Reality to them wouldn't hold up to a storm.

“Projectors who had discovered every kind of remedy for the little evils with which the State was touched, except the remedy of setting to work in earnest to root out a single sin...”

Wow. Dare I make comparisons?

“...the Spies among the assembled devotees of Monseigneur – forming a goodly half of the polite company – would have found it hard to discover among the angels of that sphere, one solitary wife, who, in her manners and appearance, owned to being a mother. Indeed, except for the mere act of bringing a troublesome creature into this world – which does not go far toward the realization of the name of mother – there was no such thing known to the fashion.”

Sometimes I wonder if one of the first signs of a country's demise is when it's not fashionable to be a mother. If a mother's love fails, what else can hold firm? They say the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world. I think when kids arrive in the picture, life should revolve around them. They have been placed in our care by God almighty and they are the new generation. What a task!
Yes, I want a large family... but it scares me sometimes. This is Responsibility.

“The leprosy of unreality disfigured every human creature in attendance upon Monseigneur. In the outermost room were half a dozen exceptional people who had had, for a few years, some vague misgiving in them that things in general were going rather wrong.”
That made me chuckle when I first read it. But I couldn't help but feel the humor more keenly as I read on. France was in dire straits... and no one of the gentry was but vaguely aware of it. They thought that people could be controlled better with starvation, heavy taxes, punishments (that make my skin crawl) and fear itself. Leaders would be wise to learn that a 'firm' hand does not mean 'cruel'.
A bit off the subject but this came to mind:
I was reading a book the other day about a slave and she made a comment that I find very true. “The problem with being a slave, is that you get lazy [mentally] because you don't have to make any decisions.”

1 comment:

Singing Pilgrim said...

I love this "Sometimes I wonder if one of the first signs of a country's demise is when it's not fashionable to be a mother.". I've not put it so eloquently but I've felt it.