Book Report of A Tale of Two Cities
In response to the appeal of Millie in her reading course when Professor Gu was in Cambridge, I choose A Tale of Two Cities to read in memory of Charles Dickens. Originated from great interest in French Revolution, Charles Dickens composes this masterpiece within thirty weeks, turned out to be one of the most famous works in the history of fictional literature with well over 200 million copies sold. The copy with 316 pages I read is published by World Publishing Company in 2010.
One of the most overwhelming reasons of my choosing this book is that it’s believed two chief male characters, Carton and Darnay, one respectable but dull while the other disreputable but magnetic, together embody (if they do) one person-- the author himself, though he denies when asked. Anyway, as a fan of Charles Dickens I figure it’s a practical way to know more about him by getting closer to these two characters, who share his own initials. As for the main female character Lucie Manette, honestly speaking I do not think highly of her. She is nothing but simple. Plus charming appearance, however, this is the dream lover most men have a crush on.
Anyway, this excellent novel still agrees with me. Taking place in two cities as the title reveals, the author depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up
to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same time period. Not going to illustrate chapters in detail, what I want to present next is divided into two parts. The first one is the reflection of the so-called revolution and the second one is the analyses of my favourite character-- Sydney Carton.
Although in the novel the French Revolution achieves what it’s set for, the writer’s attitude towards it is worth discussing. In the book, Charles Dickens describes a wine shop run by the Defarges couple which they use to lead a clandestine band of revolutionaries. They refer to each other by the codename "Jacques," which Charles Dickens drew from the Jacobins, an actual French revolutionary group. But Mrs. Defarges, who was deeply hurt by The Marquis St. Evrémonde two decades ago and seemed to have been suffering some kind of mental disease, was a leading figure in this revolutionary organization. In the last, she insisted innocent Charles Darney be executed simply because he is the offspring of the Marquis. Reasonable for her to ask for the complete revenge for herself as well as her already dead sister, it can be assumed that the writer intend to tell us there are some irrational elements existing in the French Revolution. Actually, as Marx points out in the Marxism Theory, there is no fundamental difference between any two revolutions -- all of them are
simply one class overthrowing another; no matter how great they claim themselves to be, they still can not get rid of their class limitation.
I haven’t list the analysis of characters as required because most of the characters are too simple. Their characteristic is more than obvious: Lucie is kind-hearted, Charles is honorable, Dr. Alexander Manette is just, Mr. Lorry is steady etc.. Among those plain people, one of them is relatively complex and more humane -- Sydney Carton. He has handsome appearance, profound erudition and a sensitive heart. He has any reason to be self-confident or even self-superior but he does not. On the contrary, he is portrayed as an alcoholic and cynic at the beginning of the story, holding a negative attitude toward life, believing that he is not equipped with the ability and willingness to love and to be loved. The author does not explain the cause of his being so but it’s quite convincible because every one of us can feel gloomy and pessimistic without knowing exact reason. Actually that I like Carton most is due to the feeling that we share some similarities-- both of us are too timid to show our real feeling. We do not deserve to be loved by others because of our unattractive nature. This world prefers those who are active and optimistic such as Charles Darnay, brining people warmth and sunshine. Maybe evolution can account for this preference: those gregarious ancestors are more likely to acquire food and resource so they are always the center of the group with spotlights focusing on them, resulting in the inferior feeling for those who
are quiet and shy, the feeling of being marginalized, being unaided and being forgotten. Carton never expects to be loved by his dreaming girl Lucie even during his passionate love announcement for her, which is more like the outburst of depression.
Nevertheless, there is still a corner inside of me saying: everyone is created with the love given by God; no one is born unaided. The gene of shyness and loneliness is also passed on through generations, which means the nature is in favor of diversity. Each and every character, individual and community has its reason to exist. This is the choice of nature. They deserve to be equally respected and taken care of.
To sum up, what I write down is simply my own understanding of this great book, which I may as well not really grasp the cream. Probably I will reread this book some time later and my understanding toward it may vary from now.