A Tale of Two Cities Summary
Meet Charles Darnay, the nobleman who spends more time on trial and in prison than attending balls and drinking expensive wine. Don't feel too bad for him though—his stunt double takes his place at the guillotine. Talk about dedication.
|19th-Century Literature||19th-Century British Literature|
All 19th-Century Literature
|Author||Dickens - Charles Dickens|
|British Literature||19th-Century British Literature|
Justice and Judgement
Life, Consciousness, and Existence
Morality and Ethics
Society and Class
War and Warfare
worst of times… at the same time?
What was Dickens trying to say here… or was he just trying to cover his butt?
Okay, considering that Dickens is one of the greatest writers who has ever lived…
…and taking into account that his opener is a pretty famous one…
…let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and say that… he was likely trying to make
an important point here. But what?
Is he saying that it was the best of times for some, and the worst of times for others?
Dickens paints a picture with a pretty clear divide between the upper and lower classes.
One half of the population was the upper crust…
..while the other half had to settle for the upper crust’s… crumbs.
Or is he insinuating that it’s a matter of perception?
Some of the characters in this novel live in poverty, but are courageous, loyal, or
strong of heart.
Others… members of the aristocracy… live lavish existences, but are corrupt, unkind
Were the folks Dickens writes about experiencing both the best of times and the worst of times…
simultaneously? Were their hearts full, but their stomachs
…or vice versa?
And why exactly were there so many empty stomachs… had these people never heard of Ramen noodles?
All right, so the line might be referring to a divide between the classes…
…or it could have to do with a sort of… duality of man…
…but consider a third option.
Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with people’s lives at all.
Perhaps Dickens was commenting on the state of the world as a whole.
It was the worst of times, because the French Revolution was raging on, and evils such as
self-indulgence and brutality reared their nasty heads…
…but it was the best of times, because the human spirit rose up when faced with such
adversity and hardship…
…and remained strong even in the face of death.
And trust us… it’s tough to be strong in the face of death. That is one ugly mug.
So… which way are you leaning?
Does Dickens’ famous first line relate to the highs of the rich and the lows of the
…the differing perceptions of happiness that existed within each character in the
…or to an all-encompassing assessment of the state of humankind?
Shmoop among yourselves.