Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Tale of Two Cities

The recent surge rather resurge of my enthusiasm towards literature has led me to finish yet another novel. This one is a classic from Charles Dickens, written in the middle of the nineteenth century (1859 to be precise) about a period somewhere six or seven decades further earlier. A Tale of Two Cities, at the outset is a story of the French Revolution (at least as told in my ebook copy that I got from the internet). Searching on the internet for something to read (that too for free) led me to this book, the author of which I had heard something about. In our school textbooks there were some of his stories in the curriculum to be read, Christmas Carol being the one that I still remember.

Due only to the familiarity with the name of the author, I started reading the novel. I had only the slightest of the ideas about the context of the storyline that I got from the small description of the novel at the site from where I downloaded it. I searched about the book on the internet and categorically avoided the plot of the story. The ideas that I started the novel with included the fact that it was a story of comparison of lives and times in the two cities, namely London and Paris in a period just before and during the French Revolution and that it was written by Dickens as weekly instalments to promote the sale of his magazine 'All The Year Around'.

The very first lines of the novel give you the idea about the comparison of the state of the two cities at that time. The differences as contrasting as they were and the similarities between the two cities as parallel as they were were quite evident in the opening lines of the novel. A thorough search about the novel that followed my finishing it revealed to me that these opening lines written more than one and a half century back are one of the most popular lines ever written in english literature.
"...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 the heaven, we were all going direct the other way...  
...There were a king with large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever..."
The description of the differences very well explain the tortured condition that the people of France were living in. The way Dickens has drawn similarity in between the two places here must only be his foreseen warning of the fact that if aristocracy is continued in the same manner, even England one day could fall to a similar revolution of sorts.

The whole plot of the story can be found here. The story moves slowly and steadily from being one of comparison between the two cities to one filled with humanly emotions of love, sacrifice, sufferings, life and death. The first half of the story is spent in building up the whole melodrama that the latter half is all about. The extensive build-up of the first half sometimes feel boring and one tends to loose connection with the book altogether.

There were a few times in my reading the novel when I seriously wanted to just put it way. The sheer number of novels that I have kept unfinished became my biggest motivation to finish this one off and I must be thankful that I finally managed to finish it and experience the melodrama that Dickens has put in the climax of the story. Altogether, it is really tough for an early bird like me to comment something on an age-old classic like this one. I must admit, the way the climax of the story has managed to amaze me, it was out of proportions from what I had expected while reading the earlier half of the novel. Must recommend it to those who can have the patience to tolerate the somewhat trivial first half to enjoy the more than exciting climax.


Vishwam Prakash said...

Great choice.Dickens is a masterful storyteller.Much more significant and vibrant than the other ladies like Emily Bronte

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