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By Charles Dickens

"It used to be the easiest of instances, it was once the worst of instances . . ."

With those well-known phrases, Charles Dickens plunges the reader into certainly one of history’s so much explosive eras—the French Revolution. From the storming of the Bastille to the relentless drop of the guillotine, Dickens vividly captures the fear and upheaval of that tumultuous interval.

At the guts is the novel’s hero, Sydney Carton, a lazy, alcoholic legal professional who, encouraged via a lady, makes the very best sacrifice at the bloodstained streets of Paris.

One of Dickens’s most fun novels, A story of 2 Cities is a stirring vintage of affection, revenge, and resurrection.

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Extra info for A Tale of Two Cities (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Sample text

Dickens had a grand social vision for his own city of London, but it did not rhyme with libertȳ, egalitȳ, fraternitȳ. Dickens invented Victorian London as a theater of the imagination, and in his sixteen novels he ushered literally thousands of characters onto that stage. The colorful Dickensian army of Pickwicks, Micaw bers, and Little Nells舒not types, but singular, unrepeatable citizens of the metropolis舒formed a line of imaginative defense against what Dickens perceived as the darker potential of urbanized humanity: their transformation into an undifferentiated mass, a mob.

He continues to publish stories and sketches in periodi cals. The Poor Law Amendment Act ends out-of-door relief (aid given to the poor in their own homes) and compels those in need of assistance to enter workhouses, where con ditions are very harsh. 1835 Dickens becomes engaged to Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle. 1836 Dickens writes in several different genres and achieves signif icant literary success. Adopting the pseudonym 舠Boz,舡 based on his pronunciation as a young child of Moses as 舠Boses,舡 Dickens publishes in volume form Sketches by Boz, a collection of his earlier writings.

He is a man buried alive; to be dug out in the slow round of years; and in the mean time dead to everything but torturing anxieties and horrible despair (p. 69). Here is the seed, almost two decades in germination, for Doctor Manette and A Tale of Two Cities (and its preliminary title, Buried Alive). While some of the scenes and characters of the novel creak with age, and read to us as stock melodrama, Dickens舗s rendering of the effects of psychological torture on Doctor Manette is a terrific achievement, his use of the eighteenth-century associationist language of philosophers John Locke and David Hartley more subtle and gripping than a library舗s worth of post-Freudian case studies.

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