Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Charles Dickens -- A Tale of Two Cities 3

I am finally finished with A Tale of Two Cities. The second half of the book was much easier to read than the first half. But I think it was “Monsieur The Marquis In Town” when I first felt the connection with the author. I suspect the reason is that Dickens, at that point, started to enjoy his story... when this tale became worth something more than money to him.

I found it amazing that Dickens could include so many stories in one and in the end, tie all the threads neatly. We have the mystery of the Dr.'s imprisonment, the question of Charles Darnay's heritage and connections, the French Revolution, the romance of Lucie and Charles, many different personalities were reflected upon and their actions and ends shown (and it was all very true to life), lessons taught in a non-preachy way and much else I do not have time or room to list here.

I have never read a book about the French Revolution whose sympathies was more on the side of the people. However, I found it fitting when vengeance reached out and touched those I had grown fond of... and the fact that vengeance does belong to God was stressed strongly. Bitterness never leads to godly actions.
It it amazing how I first felt such hot indignation towards the French government but when the people took things into their own hands and wreaked vengeance on their “enemies” (many who were innocent), my sympathies were turned towards the government. This is when I feel that the (fictional character) Scarlet Pimpernel was completely in the right... a Robin Hood of a slightly different sense but a noble character none-the-less! It is a good reminder to never let my sense of just wrath to get in the way of God's will and timing.

Character Notes:

Here is a list of characters I had formed an opinion of throughout the book. As you will see, some changed for me the further I read.

Charles Darnay:
Indefinite... he was simply in the story. Then, he became more and more noble. I admire his obedience to what he feels is right.

Sweet, kind, very much the lady. Two separate times she surprised me with back bone and good sense: both were when a certain Sydney Carton was involved.

Doctor Manette:
Very noble, very strong; someone who suffered much and came out marked for life but overcoming. This world needs more men like him.

Sydney Carton:
From the first, Sydney Carton surprised me. His sudden stand in the courtroom to defend Darnay, his tender love for Lucie, his apparent worthlessness, then, his willingness to give up his life. I love the opposites of his character. I love how unpredictable he is. I love how I can't quite figure him out. :-)

John Barsad:
I should have known he was involved somehow. Good ol' Solomon. Jerk... but a handy one. LOL!

Miss Pross:
I still love Miss Pross. Predictable, loyal, strong, womanly but very sudden. And very deaf! What a lady!

I thought this man was rather noble and clever. Then, I found out what little backbone he had and my good opinion of him is on the verge of going opposite. There was some good in the man but...

Madam Defarge :
I knew she was dangerous. But I thought it was a controlled dangerous... and for most of the book it was. But when she had a power, you feel that she is on the verge of insanity. I breathed a sigh of relief at the ending. Very fitting.

I found this man very funny. I love his quote about how Mrs. Jerry is supposed to honor and obey him and how religiousness ruins his “business”. His resurrection-man humor is to die for and the conversations he has with Young Jerry never fail to make me laugh out loud. Young Jerry is all boy and Old Jerry is... well, he's Telson's Bank odd-job-man who has a distinct aversion to all things connected with 'flopping'. :-)

Mr. Lorry:
The story begins with him and he is there, faithful, to the end. A true friend, noble, honest, level-headed and a “man of business”. :-) He was a very comfortable character because you always knew what he was going to do and it was always very correct. Amusing but I never laughed at him in a mocking way, as I did Mr. Stryver. :-)

* * * *

Some quotations:

The stone faces on the outer walls stared blindly at the black night... lion and human... The fountain in the village flowed unseen and unheard, and the fountain at the chateau dropped unseen and unheared – both melting away, like the minutes that were falling from the spring of Time – through three dark hours. Then, the gray water of both began to be ghostly in the light, and the eyes of the stone faces of the chateau were opened.
The carol of the birds was loud and high, and, on the weather-beaten sill of the great window of the bedchamber of the Monsieur the Marquis, one little bird sang its sweetest song with all its might. At this, the nearest stone face seemed to stare amazed, and, with open mouth and dropped under-jaw, looked awe-stricken.
It portended that there was one stone face too many, up at the chateau. The Gorgon had surveyed the building again in the night, and had added the one stone face wanting; the stone face for which it had waited through about two hundred years.
It lay back on the pillow of Monsieur the Marquis. It was like a fine mask, suddenly startled, made angry, and petrified. Driven home into the heart of the stone figure attached to it, was a knife. Round its hilt was a frill of paper, on which was scrawled:
“Dive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques.” (The Gorgon's Head)

This seemed so fitting and right. I never felt so satisfied at any other place in the book, excepting the end. :-)

Mr. Stryver having made up his mind to that magnanimous bestowal of good fortune on the doctor's daughter, resolved to make her happiness known to her before he left town for the Long Vacation. (The Fellow of Delicacy)

“Here's a man of business – a man of years – a man of experience – in a Bank,” said Stryver; “and having summed up three leading reasons for complete success, he says there's no reason at all! Says it with his head on!” Mr. Stryver remarked upon the peculiarity as if it would have been infinitely less remarkable if he had said it with his head off. (The Fellow of Delicacy)

I loved this part in the book. Mr. Stryver makes up his mind to marry Lucie Manette and he stops at Tellson's on his way to her (to tell her her good fortune) and makes his intentions known (in a loud voice which is heard all over Tellson's cramped quarters) to Mr. Lorry. Dickens knows exactly how to get a good laugh out of his readers. :-)

After the coffin “chases” Young Jerry home, he rushes up the stairs and slips into bed, wakening at daybreak... “by the presence of his father in the family room. Something had gone wrong with him; at least Young Jerry inferred, from the circumstance of his holding Mrs. Cruncher by the ears and knocking the back of her head against the headboard of the bed.
“You oppose yourself to the profit of the business,” said Jerry, “and me and my partners suffer. You was to honor and obey... Is it being a good wife to oppose your husband's business? Is it honoring your husband to dishonor his business? Is it obeying your husband to disobey him on the wital subject of his business?”
There was no fish for breakfast, and not much of any thing else. Mr. Cruncher was out of spirits, and out of temper, and kept an iron pot-lid by him as a projectile for the correction of Mrs. Cruncher, in case he should observe any symptoms of her saying Grace.
“Father,” said Young Jerry, as they walked along: taking care to keep at arm's length and to have the stool well between them: “what's a Resurrection-Man?”
Mr. Cruncher came to stop on the pavement before he answered, “How should I know?”
“I thought you knowed every thing, father,” said the artless boy.
“Hem! Well,” returned Mr. Cruncher, going on again, “he's a tradesman.”
“What's his goods, father?” asked the brisk Young Jerry.
“His goods,” said Mr. Cruncher, after turning it over in his mind, “is a branch of Scientific goods.”
“Persons' bodies, ain't it, father?” asked the lively boy.
“I believe it is something of that sort,” said Mr. Cruncher.
“Oh, father, I should so like to be a Resurrection-Man when I'm quite growed up!”
Mr. Cruncher was soothed, but shook his head in a dubious and moral way. “It depends upon how you develop your talents. Be careful to develop your talents, and never to say no more than you can help to nobody, and there's no telling at the present time what you may not come to be fit for.” (The Honest Tradesman)

A branch of Scientific goods... think of the range that term covers. LOL! Jerry, Jerry. Such fatherly wisdom.

The man slept on, indifferent to showers of hail and intervals of brightness, to sunshine on his face and shadow, to the pattering lumps of dull ice on his body and the diamonds into which the sun changed them, until the sun was low in the west, and the sky was glowing. (Fire Rises)

Just another amazing description...

Monseigneur, as a class, had dissociated himself from the phenomenon of his not being appreciated... (Drawn To The Loadstone Rock)

...with Monseigneur swarming within a yard or two of it, boastful of what he would do to avenge himself on the rascal people before long. (Drawn To The Loadstone Rock)

This makes me think of one word: blindness. How is it that when people have power (or have had) that they can never see themselves as wrong? Where does it start? Pride? Fear?

Jerry remarked “...[if] them poor things get well out o' this, and never no more will I interfere with Mrs. Cruncher's flopping, never no more!”

“Whatever housekeeping arrangement that may be,” said Miss Pross, striving to dry her eyes and compose herself, “I have no doubt it is best that Mrs. Cruncher should have it entirely under her own superintendence...” (The Knitting Done)

This made me laugh... and sigh. What a fitting ending. I hope he kept his word. I rather think he did... Revolutions have a way of changing your thinking. :-)

* * * *

And we come to the end of my observations from Dicken's Two Cities. Again, please feel free to comment about the book or other books you've read. I'd love to hear your opinions. :-)
Currently I am reading a book about the Holocaust entitled, “Journey” by Myrna Grant, have finished Jane Austen's “Emma” and Louis L'Amour's “Last of the Breed”. Not sure about the former yet but the latter two I loved. :-) “Last of the Breed” was one of author's best works.


bekah said...

I have never even read Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities! I am just starting to get into the classics. :) The ones I have read are good! So how do you like Jane Austen's Emma? Which edition are you reading?

michaelmross said...

Be kind to yourself and open yourself up to a dark and fantastic experience by listening to John Lee's brilliant reading of Two Cities.
Books on Tape • 2002
CS ISBN 0736684697

Naomi said...

Bekah, I loved "Emma". My sister Ellie found it difficult. I think it's funny that what I found amusing, she found extremely dull: the dialog. :-)
I'm afraid I can't remember what edition I read.

Michael, thanks for the info. I love listening to books on tape/cd. :-)