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 Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—
in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
– Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Dickens got paid by the word for his writing, and wrote some priceless literature. In this opening to his novel Tale of Two Cities, Dickens describes the opposite attitudes that were taking place across the English Channel in France and the United Kingdom by comparing and contrasting the subjective viewpoints between the cities of London and Paris during the French Revolution.
For oppressed civilians, this political proclamation of revolution was a “spring of hope” while simultaneously for the ancient regime, the revolution was like a “winter of despair” which led to its death and destruction.
Dickens alludes that good and evil, wisdom and folly, and light and darkness stand equally matched in their struggle, but are opposing doubles which he uses for his characters that all have a “double”.
Dickens further writes: “A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this.”
As a writer, Dickens understood the solitude of characterization and in the Tale of Two Cities often reflects such position in the novel that contrasts the two extremes of self.
Some of my favorite quotes from Dickens include:
“A multitude of people and yet solitude…There is prodigious strength in sorrow and despair.”
“Death may beget life, but oppression can beget nothing other than itself.”
“A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”
“Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule.”
“There is a man who would give his life to keep a life you love beside you.”
“A day wasted on others is not wasted on one’s self.”
Ironically, it is said that Christoper Nolan applied Dickension themes in The Dark Knight Rises.
At the end of the novel, Carton manages to switch places with the character Charles Darnay as Darnay faces execution (they were doubles). As he does so, he expresses faith in his city, just like the faith Batman expresses for Gotham: “I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, though long to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.”
In the end, when Carton faces his death on the guillotine, he states: “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.” With the utterance of these final world, Dickens uses Carton to restore meaning to his life and the lives of those he loves. Such valor with reoccurring themes I saw of late from those who would have stated it was not possible but it was…it is.