Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Question of the Week (12/3/10)

Below are some prevalent themes used throughout A Tale of Two Cities. What other themes are present in the text? Comment on your favorite and support your choice. Don't forget to comment on a classmate's response. Post by the end of the school day on Monday.

Order and Disorder
The story of A Tale of Two Cities takes place during the turbulent years of the French Revolution. Dickens stresses the chaos of Revolutionary France by using images of the ocean. He calls the Paris mob a "living sea," and compares Ernest Defarge to a man caught in a whirlpool. Defarge and his wife are both at the center of revolutionary activity in Paris, just as their lives are at the center of the whirlpool. Order breaks down once again in the second chapter of the third book, "The Grindstone." "Dickens deliberately set Darnay's return to Paris and arrest at the time of the September Massacres," writes Ruth Glancy in A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens's Revolutionary Novel, "a four-day execution of 1,089 prisoners from four Paris prisons, condemned in minutes each by … 'sudden Courts of Wild Justice.'" Contrasted to the chaos of Paris is the order of England: Dr. Manette's peaceful home in Soho is a place of refuge for Darnay, Carton, and Mr. Lorry, while even Tellson's Bank serves as a center of calmness in the whirlpool of Revolutionary Paris.
Death and Resurrection
Death, burial, and resurrection are themes that Dickens returns to again and again in A Tale of Two Cities. The first book of the novel, "Recalled to Life," traces the resurrection of Dr. Manette, who has been held in prison for almost twenty years. Prisons, for Dickens, are symbolic of the grave—a comparison that he makes throughout his works, and which may be related to his father's imprisonment in the debtors' prison at Marshalsea. Mr. Lorry, who travels to Paris in 1775 to secure the doctor's release, views himself as literally digging up Dr. Manette's body. He fancies that the doctor has been buried for so long that he will fall to pieces upon being liberated: "Got out at last, with earth hanging around his face and hair, he would suddenly fall away to dust." Even the doctor's daughter Lucie, whom he has never seen, believes that the person who will emerge from the prison will be a ghost rather than a living man. Like a man brought back to life, Manette cannot quite shake the hold his burial and rebirth has on his mind. He reverts to his cobbling—a sign of his madness contracted in prison—during periods of stress, but he is finally redeemed by his daughter's love and his own forgiveness of Darnay for the crimes of the St. Evremondes.
Other characters are also absorbed in Dickens's death imagery. Jerry Cruncher, the Tellson's Bank messenger, is also a "resurrection man"—a person who steals fresh corpses from graveyards and sells them to medical schools for use as anatomy specimens. Charles Darnay is imprisoned and released twice in the course of the novel; the second time, it takes another death, Sydney Carton's, to secure Darnay's freedom. Madame Defarge, consumed by a desire for vengeance, finds her death in a tussle with Miss Pross. In addition, in his final moments Carton foresees the deaths of a large number of minor characters, including the spies Barsad and Cly, the revolutionary leaders Defarge and the woman known as The Vengeance, and the judge and jury who condemned Darnay to death. Revolutionary anarchy and hatred consume these people, but the Darnays, Dr. Manette, Mr. Lorry, and especially Carton, are redeemed through their love and self-sacrifice.
Memory and Reminiscence
A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel, about events approximately seventy years past when Dickens wrote the work. For the author in A Tale of Two Cities, memory is often a trap, pulling people into an abyss of despair. Madame Defarge's hatred of aristocrats in general and St. Evremonde in particular is based on her memory of the rape and deaths of her siblings at his hands. However, it can also be a force for redemption. It is Dr. Manette's memory of his dead wife, seen in his daughter's face, that begins his process of resurrection from the grave of his prison and madness. "Darnay … listens to the voices from his past," states Ruth Glancy in A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens's Revolutionary Novel; "his desire to right the wrongs of his family is primarily due to his mother's reliance on him to do so." Perhaps most interesting, however, is Sydney Carton and his relationship to memory. His colleague C. J. Stryver calls him "Memory Carton" for his brilliant legal mind. Dickens's portrayal of Carton, however, shows him inspired by the memory of his love for Lucie to renounce his passive life. "When Carton dies with the words 'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done,' he is renouncing the mental prison that has prevented him from making something of his life," writes Glancy; "he is living dynamically, as Doctor Manette does, and even if for him the action will soon be over, its repercussions will be felt for as long as the Darnay family survives."

17 comments:

Haiti quilter said...

My favorite theme is the ocean and water. I can really get an image of how angry and fast moving the fren mob was. They were like a tsunami hurtling towards the shore, destroying every thing in their path. I like how defarge is described as a man caught in a whirlpool. The revolution may have started as a small swirling idea, but then it cahnge into a whirling abyss. It came grwoing and growing, gathering and sweeping up more people into its cause. I also liked how the water represented the lives of the peasents. When a corpse was hung over their water source their lives were poluted. The aristocracy hung the corpse, so therefore they poluted the easents lives.

Emily said...

Another theme that was present was sacrifice. Sydney Carton sacrificed himself for Darnay and his family, and throughout the entire revolution great sacrifice was being made to overthrow the government. I agree with the above theme of water being extremely important. Water was used to create imagery of the chaos of the french mob.

Carl Tischbein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carl Tischbein said...

Order and disorder is my favorite theme as well, especially with the whirlpool. I think it provides a very clear image and metaphor for the happenings of the revolution in France. I very much agree with the first post, but I think there's one thing I'd like to add. Not only are the Defarges caught in the whirlpool, they are in the center of the whirlpool. The are the small calm who started the action from their little wine shop outside of Paris. It kept getting bigger and bigger, when the water started raging and churning into the French Revolution. I also think the whirlpool represents the circle of periods of order and of disorder. The whirlpool keeps turning in circles, just like the government. The French revolution is happening and they are just killing a massacring to get a new government. It's the same old thing. This is probably what happened last time, and eventually it's just going to happen again (after a period of calm) - the government will get too much power and do things the people don't like, and there may indeed my another bloody revolution. This is just going to keep happening, it's the way things work, and the whirlpool circle perfectly illustrates the periods of turbulence and calm, as well as the general turbulence of the revolution.

Parker said...

Sacrifice is a very prevalent theme. The obvious sacrifice is when Sydney Carton gives his life for the Manette family. Also Ms. Pross was putting her life in danger and potentially sacrificing herself when Madame Defarge came to round up Dr. Manette, Lucy, and little lucy. Monsieur Defarge was sacrificing him self by helping the Manettes and Charles Darnay by delivering letters, and also by helping the Manettes and Charles Darnay escape from France. Monsieur Defarge could have been caught by Madame Defarge and other revolutionaries. Charles Darnay sacrificed himself and his family by going back to France during a time of extreme danger. Madame Defarge and Monsieur Defarge sacrificed their lives for fighting for the revolution. If they had been found out they would have been publicly executed. Sacrifice in this story is a major theme. I really liked the water theme, I thought that it made the novel easier to relate to. And water increased the height of the story.

Parker Gardner said...

Another theme in this book is suffering. Although it is not my favorite theme, it is interesting because it spurs people to do many things. The peasants of France suffer under their oppressors and are spurred to overthrow the government. Madame Defarge suffered as a peasant and a family member of the boy and girl who died at the hands of aristocrats. She is spurred to lead the revolt and pursue the Evremondes until every last descendant is exterminated. Dr manette suffered greatly in the Bastille and his experiences there spur him to try with all his might to protect his son-in-law from the same fate. He also tries to make his daughter as happy as possible to make up for all the time he was away from her. Darnay suffers the stress and ordeal of being tried for his life in England. This experience contributes to his decision to go to France and try and help Gabelle in his trial. Jerry Cruncher suffers financially, forcing him to become an illegal resurrection man in the attempt to support his family. Finally, Carton suffers from depression, alcoholism, and feelings that he has accomplished nothing worthwhile in his life. This, along with his love for Lucy spurs Carton to have his dyeing act be saving Darnay’s life, serving Darnay, and Lucy. I agree “Haiti” that water is an extremely important theme in ATOTC and that it helps the reader visualize both the mob, and the revolution itself.

Marlou Taenzer said...

I agree with Emily and Parker that sacrifice is a theme throughout the novel. I agree with Parker that the most obvious and perhaps also the greatest sacrifice is when Sydney Carton gives his life for Charles Darnay, Lucie Manette, and their children. This is a great sacrifice that undoubtedly took a great amount of courage, and is in my opinion very admirable. Throughout the revolution there was great sacrifice. The starving people sacrificed their lives to overthrow the aristocracy and leave behind what they hoped would be a better life for their children. Madame and Monsieur Defarge are prime examples of this. Ms. Pross was also willing to sacrifice her life for Lucie when she blocked Madame Defarge's way and fought with her. This theme of sacrifice and sacrifice for those we love and care deeply about is apparent throughout the novel. Which makes it easier for readers of all ages and from all times to relate to, simply because most would sacrifice themselves for those they love, or for a cause that they care deeply about, this is perhaps just human nature.

Kate Kerin said...

I agree with Parker and Marlou, that sacrifice is a main theme in the story. One of my favorite themes in A Tale of Two Cities is the role of economic classes in the story. During the French Revolution the lower class citizens are desperate for the downfall of the aristocracy. They begin take on a murderous appearance when their violence against the upper class keeps escelating so that no one in the upper class is safe. In In the book economic class is what determines whether you are being killed or doing the killing. Not all of the upper class is bad, as seen with Charles Darnay. Unfortunately the peasants don't care if you are good and sympathize with them, they just want to wipe out the upper class.

David Desaulniers said...

I agree with Kate that sacrifice could be a main theme of the book. The way Sydney Carton sacrificed his life for others so that Charles and Lucy could live a happy life. He could have easily just lived on and forgot about everyone but instead knew that he could make others happy. And with the entire revolution going on people are sacrificing their lives in order to take down the aristocracy.

David W. said...

I agree with everyone who said that sacrifice was a major theme. Obviously, the best example of this is when Sydney Carton gives his life to save Charles Darnay. I thought this was interesting because it showed how much Carton changed over the course of the book. At the beginning of the book, he would never have done such a selfless act. My favorite theme mentioned above is death and resurrection. I enjoyed finding references to this throughout the text, and I as I read, I found several instances where the words "recalled to life" were used with no connection to the code at the beginning.

anthony said...

I agree with Parker that sacrifice is very prevalent throughout the book. Another theme that in the book that I like is mirrors. Not only the literal mirrors that appear in the book, like the one during the trial, but people who look similar seem to show up a lot. Obviously this was very central to the relationship of Carton and Darnay and is probably the only reason they became friends at all. also,Evremonde brothers were twins, and it mentioned several times how much Jerry Cruncher and his son looked like each other. I thought it was interesting that this kept showing up as I read the book.

Oren said...

I agree with everyone in saying that sacrifice is an extremely noticeable theme in the book, as well as suffering. The theme that I find most interesting, is being haunted by the past. I think that this theme is tied to the theme recalled to life, and it is similar, although not the same. Many people are haunted by their past in this book: Dr. Manette, Thérese Defarge, and Charles Darnay for example. They all have pasts that they have no intention of recalling, or reliving, but they will never forget them, and bear them as they would a scar.

Daniel said...

I agree with Oren that another theme is being haunted by the past. Many of the characters in the story have ived through moments where they would never want to go back and relive it. Mr. Manette was put into prison and he never got to see his daughter grow up. He would never want to look back into his past and remeber the horrible times that he was put into. Dr. Manette does go back to his shoemaking and that shows that he is haunted by his past because he had trouble and his shoemaking kept him at peace. Also Therese defarge had her family practicaly whipped out by the Evermonts and she hates them for that. Many of the people in the book are haunted by there past and they use that to get back at people or to find comfor.

Hudson Schuchman said...

I agree with David. My personal favorite theme in A Tale of Two Cities was the theme of death and resurrection. One reason that it's my favorite is because unlike some themes, it can be related to or effects almost every character in the book. I believe it is the most prevalent theme in the book. Many themes, although they may be important, are only found in certain instances in the book and only have an effect or are related to a few of the characters. Whether it be the phrase "recalled to life" or Lucie finding out that her father is alive, the theme of death and revival can be found in many places all throughout the novel.

Alli said...

I agree with Anthony when he mentioned that mirror theme kept appearing. Darnay and Carton look very alike. Their personalities differ greatly, but their appearance makes it seem like they are twins since people get them mixed up frequently. When Darnay was sent to be guillotined, Carton was killed instead and nobody except for very few people knew it was really Carton. It's also like Jerry Cruncher and his son. They look alike except one is younger, but his son has many of the same features as his father. Evremonde and being a twin was also significant to this theme. It seemed as if many of the characters had some sort of twin or was like someone else throughout the story.

Charlie said...

My favorite theme that is present in A Tale of Two Cities- like what Hudson said was his favorite- is also Death and resurrection. I agree that "Recalled to life" specifically comes up a lot in the text, and also there are times when the same idea happens, but the words "recalled to life" are not spoken. I also think that like Parker Goss said, sacrifice is an important theme in this book. Lucie risks her life by marrying Charles Darnay, who she knows has French aristocratic blood. Ms. Pross defends Darnay and Lucie from Madame Defarge who is quite crazy and has killed many people. There are many other examples of sacrifice, and just about every charecter experiences sacrifice either sacrificing for someone, or benifiting from someone elses sacrifice.

sam merrens said...

I agree with everyone about their favorite themes, but my favorite theme of "A Tale of Two Cities" is of Death and Resurrection. It adds a certain tone of darkness and the unknown, as well as the supernatural. They also address the intriguing topic of resurrection, which drags the reader in. Dickens surprises the reader with how many connections he makes to the overarching theme of Death and Resurrection, through simple rhymes in the courtroom to hidden analogies of Dr. Manette’s past. RECALLED TO LIFE?