A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, is an utterly astounding book about honor and revenge. The story starts out with the intriguing line, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." It tells the story of a young girl, Lucie Manette who found out that her father, whom she had thought dead, was alive and had been imprisoned for eighteen years. Years later a young man named Charles Darnay is accused of being a spy.
Lucie and her father attend Darnay’s trial as witnesses. Darnay is acquitted when found that the accusation could have been a mistake in identity between him and Sydney Carton, a courtroom advocate. Both Darnay and Carton looked exactly alike and were in love with Lucie, but Lucie liked Darnay more. Carton soon gave up and Lucie and Darnay were wed. After a couple more years Carton went away to rescue a friend of his, but was caught. He was sentenced to death because he was related to the cruel Marquis Saint Evremonde who killed a lot of people and was even the one to put Lucie’s father in prison. "Detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low." (-Evremonde)
While waiting for his death day, Darnay was visited by Carton, who drugs Darnay and switches places with him so that Carton would be the one killed. Carton didn’t mind because he had nothing to live for and Darnay did. So they all lived happily ever after with Darnay returning to his wife and child, and Carton was decapitated knowing he did something good and that his life had a purpose.
The main character in this story is Lucie Manette Darnay. She is very beautiful and is loved by everyone she meets. She is a very virtuous woman who reaches out to all human beings in need of love. She is also compassionate and it shows when she stresses all of the good aspects of Darnay during his trial, when they first met.
"Let them eat cake."
The novel is set in two cities, London and Paris, which are the “Two Cities” referred to in the book’s title. This story takes place during the French Revolution as do many other books written around the same time period, including Les Misérables written by Victor Hugo. The novel covers a period of eighteen years. It starts in 1775, fourteen years before the fall of the Bastille, and continues until the Reign of Terror, 1792 to 1793. “...in short, the period was so; far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received...”
There were many, many conflicts in this novel, but the one I chose to center on is the inner conflict of Dr. Manette, Lucie Manette Darnay’s father. Often throughout the story Dr. Manette struggles with two sides of his personality; the one that has suffered in the bowls of the Bastille and seeks retribution and revenge, and the other that has been resurrected by the love and devotion of his daughter, Lucie.
This book was recommended by slews of high schools because of its vast vocabulary, with many of the novel’s words being SAT level and often used in tests. “A high school recommended book, A Tale of Two Cities written by Charles Dickens, gives the student the opportunity to learn SAT-College Prep vocabulary in context.” (-Carey Cook, a teacher)
I found it an excellent read and have participated in a high school play of the book. I would recommend it to people ages 11 and up. (There are a lot of big words!)
Paige is an 8th grader from Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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