Oh Sydney…you fool. I don’t know who broke you, but my heart hurts for you. Isn’t Sydney Carton just the most tragic character you have ever encountered? Move aside, Anna Karenina, you’ve been dethroned.
Reading Tale of Two Cities for the second time was like reading it for the first time, except it was so much better! I can’t account for the difference in the reading experience, I have no explanation, but I LOVED this book the second time around.
Set against the backdrop of revolutionary France and late-18th century England, the history alone in this book was enough to keep me entirely engrossed. It was interesting to see how Dickens contrasted the two cities, and very obvious from how he did so that he was an Englishman…his writing was not unbiased.
His portrayal of the French revolutionaries seemed to be that of a group of wild animals, reacting violently to being held in a life of captivity:
And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grown to maturity under conditions more certain than those to have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious licence and oppression ever again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind. (p. 367)
Even though the above seems to absolve them from blame, the revolutionaries are characterised as murderous, blood-thirsty villains throughout the book, which leaders such as Defarge and The Vengeance.
The Reign of Terror was a horrifying time, and yes, France struggled to get their shit together, but the portrayal of the revolutionaries as the villains of the plot is in such contrast to other historical narratives that it sticks out in my mind.
More later – gotta go to school! *YAY*
*title of this post is inspired by Sarah Slean’s song Duncan which you can listen to here