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December 3, 2007

In the middle of 19th century, a large number of remarkable realistic novelists were immerged in a constant stream in England. Such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Mrs. Gasket and so on. They were regarded as the “One Brilliant Generation”, who promotes the development of novels into a prime time in English literary history. And among them, Charles Dickens was the most outstanding one. He was a prolific writer who had even got 17 long-novels. Fortunately, his works including his first one “The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club ” were all greatly accepted and favored by numerous people at that time. He was also famous abroad. When he was visiting America, his crazy admirers tore his clothes into pieces. People got honored to have one piece or even a button of his clothes. After being well known, he enjoyed such a great honor both from the government and the public, which was rare in the literary world. Moved by these, he often read his works and performed dramas for people in order to award their admiration, even regardless of his own health. (Many writers have pointed out that if he could restrict his activities of these, he would even have a longer life.) However, behind all these brilliant achievements and glories was his poor and hard childhood, which can be reflected from most of his works. In contrast, this experience of his childhood that left a deep impression on his mind just became a recurring subject in his novels and even made them more touching.
Frankly speaking, I should admit that he was one of my favorite writers. I knew his name when I was very small, most of his masterpieces such as “Oliver Twist”, “Christmas Tales”, “Dombey and son”, “Hard Times,” “Little Dorrit”, “A Tale of Two Cities”, “Great Expectation” and “Our Mutual Friends” etc. were all quite excellent, successful and famous. Among all of these, I admired the “A Tale of Two Cities” very much. The following is just what I know and think about it, from which you may seek the reasons of my admiration.
“A Tale of Two Cities” published in 1859, was generally considered as Dickens’ masterpiece. It was finished at his ripe time after his well observation of the society and his flexibility of his artistic technique. To some extent, it can be regarded as his most remarkable work. Differed from his former works, this novel was well-constructed and vividly portrayed under the major background of the French Revolution. In the process of reading, you may easily find that the whole story was covered with a gruesome and ghastly atmosphere. That’s right. The author had purpose to use the style of Gothic Novel in order to create a special but tense situation which was quite fix to the time. In a broad sense, this novel is not only well-constructed or gloomy Gothic Novel, but also a social even a historical novel. The author used a series of vivid stories to depict the cause and effect, the achievements and mistakes of the French Revolution. Even if you don’t have a clear mind about history, though carefully reading you still can gain some useful information about the history of England and France at that time. I don’t believe it will disappoint you.
Back to the novel, what I want to mention is the two major themes that run through the whole novel: 1.Through the description of Monseigeur Evremonde’s brothers, it revealed the corruptly and cruelty of the feudal domination, distinctively showed the justice of people’s revolt and necessity of the French Revolution. 2. It showed the Dickens’ humanitarianism, who hoped that England may avoid the violent war and developed in a peaceful way just through the reform of polity and economy. Thus, this novel showed the justice of people’s revolt on one hand; on the other hand, it showed the worst historical result of the violence. Simply because the violent revolt might bring the extremist behaviors and horrible policies like France. Dickens completely negated the aristocratic regime, but not the French Revolution . Just only to have a negation of the extremist behaviors and policies represented by Madame Defarge. For this, we may make a conclusion of the limitation of Dickens’ humanitarianism. He didn’t look at the significance of the French Revolution from a historical view, just only to emphases the historical lessons in an indirect way. This is might Dickens’ limitation.
Anyway, there still have three unique and wonderful characteristics of the construction. Firstly, there had a close connection among the three stories: the story of Doctor Manette, the story of Charles Darnay and the story of the Defarges. All these were took place in the cities of England and France, and displayed a vivid picture about two countries or empires’ different social lives and prevailing customs. Secondly, the story got an artistic method from the beginning, made the doubtful points one by one; it can’t be denied that this quite attracts readers’ attention. Especially the letter which Doctor Manette wrote in the jail was really successful planed. Thirdly, while the construction was a little bit complex but well designed, the plot had its ups and downs. However, some critics even criticized the Dickens’ works that lack of constructions and had too much plots, needless complexity made the whole story unclear and always solve the contradiction by coincidence. Anyway, if you had read it carefully, you would find that this novel hadn’t had such phenomena: its composition and overall arrangement were well-conceived. As we have noted the three stories have a close connection among them, which the focal point of the contradiction was the Monseigneur Evremonde. He was the arch criminal of Doctor Manette and the Defarges. Meanwhile, he also brought trouble to his grandson Charles. So we can say that the developments of the three stories had relevance to each other.
In addition, among those series of positive characters in the story: generous and kind-hearted Doctor Manette; faithful and loyal Lorry, who didn’t even get angry when he lost the chance to get married; beautiful and gentle Lucy; upright and kind guy Darnay, even Miss Pross who fought against Madame Defarge at the end of the story……Anyhow, I got a deep impression of Sydney Carton. I like this image. He was the best reflection of the humanitarianism. His love to Lucy was selfless, devoted and knightly. In appearance, he was a lazy, undisciplined drunkard, but at the bottom of his heart he was a gentle, noble and unselfish. He was dead instead of Darnay, saved four innocent lives by his not very strong body. I remember clearly that he recited some sentences of the Bible: “he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall be live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” By now, it revealed a profound meaning. Carton was the spirit of love, brave, peace and humanity; he would promote “a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss.” He also gained an eternal life in readers’ hearts, even his swan song: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
What I want to mention at last is that this is really a wonderful and classical novel, no matter in its themes, artistic characteristics or depiction of personage were all expressed emotionally and vividly. I hope that all of you could have a chance to appreciate this excellent literary work.


More entries: I will greet this day with love in my heart. (1), Charles Dickens and His “A Tale of Two Cities”

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