Week 9: Posh Cattle Market

The first thing that really struck me about this part was the remedies for imaginary illnesses.  I believe a lot of medicine is “blagged” even now; it’s typical of Dickens to point out people’s making money by creating things to suit their purpose, especially as this was how he made his own money.

I love the image of the men walking around with pendants jingling like cows with bells on.  Wealth can only be relevant if you’re showing it to other people and it is a double image of their wearing jewellery and the jewellery itself drawing attention to them.

The carriage rattling through the streets is a nice contrast with the tinkling jewellery and adds a lot of atmosphere to the scene.  This makes the contemptuous chucking of a gold coin as compensation for killing a child even more harrowing.  It is then brought round again in a nice circle with the jingle of the coin hitting the carriage floor.

The crowd of rich cows is then contrasted with the crowd of poor sheep in the country.  This is interesting in that both animals are used for meat and to make clothing.  Therefore when it boils down to it, neither is more useful than the other.

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Weeks 7 and 8: Hate the Mirror, Love the Sun

I love how Part 7 opens with the image of boiling human stew.  I think Dickens really conveys how a crowded room would feel and smell through this metaphor.

Mr Lorry’s flattery of Mr Stryver’s legal skills is very realistic in modern life as well as in the relevant period.  The relationship between solicitors and barristers is one of flattery by necessity.  One wants them to represent their clients and the other wants to be chosen to represent clients.

Mr Carton’s projecting his self-hatred onto Mr Darnay is interesting particularly as he is going out of his way to spend time with him and give the appearance of being nice to him.  The point is emphasised by his talking to himself in the mirror in which, like Mr Carton and Mr Darnay themselves, everything is almost the same but opposite.

Carton feels that he has had no control over his life and everything has fallen into place through some external method determined by luck.  This would explain his hatred of Mr Darnay as he looks like him and is therefore illustrative of another life that Carton could have had.

The description of Dr Manette’s home and its surrounding area is a far cry from Dickens’ usual description of the filth and squalor of London.  It is pointed out that the nature is unusual for the area.  It is interesting that the shoemaker’s bench and tools are kept within the house.  You wouldn’t normally expect someone to keep a souvenir of a negative experience.

Dr Manette’s reaction to Darnay’s story of the buried ashes in the Tower of London implies that he remembers more about his incarceration than he admits.  This may later link to his keeping the bench and tools.

Miss Manette’s romantic idea of echoing footsteps being symbolic of people entering her and her father’s life may not be as far-fetched as the gentlemen apparently perceive.  After all, every man in the room with her at the time has come into her life since the start of the book.

Weeks 5 and 6: In Sickness and Acquittal

Firstly I love the image of money being stowed away in worm-eaten drawers at the bank.  I think it’s a rare thing now for people to carry cash and I like the idea of people gong to get it and put it into a dusty bank where everything is old and dark and it seems like the whole experience might encourage you to save rather than spend.

Mr Cruncher doesn’t seem to have much money and maybe seeing the daily interactions at the bank has gone some way to fueling his paranoia and depression of having little money.  His house is kept clean, presumably by his wife, and yet he is convinced that she is praying against him and this will have financial consequences for him.

He does get a job though, as a messenger for Mr Lorry, who we last saw five years ago.

The description of the prison as a breeding ground for diseases is very vivid and believable.  In some ways it reminds me of modern reporting of outbreaks within hospitals and in some ways the sprinkling of herbs and vinegar on the floors seems as futile as the containers of antibacterial hand-gel every three feet.

Narrating the trial from Mr Cruncher’s point of view is good as this way we don’t know anything about it other than that the crime is treason.  This builds up suspense which is enhanced by the questioning of the other character and Mr Cruncher’s responses that he is “blest if [he] knows”.

The narration of the trial is very realistic and is probably based on Dickens’ experience of working as a Court notetaker.

I also enjoyed the repeated mentions of patriotism which I found ironic to have been in this week’s part when we have had the Jubilee celebrations.

Week 4: Out by Midnight; Leave a Shoe

The thing that strikes me about the beginning of Chapter 6 is the quietness of the voice of the being that Miss Manette was so afraid of.  It’s a classic facing your fear anticlimax.  This culminates in the role reversal of parent and child.  Mr Manette has been so psychologically damaged by his imprisonment he has repressed his memory and is only able to concentrate on shoemaking for any length of time.  Procedural memory is the most permanent psychologically and therefore it makes sense that he is using it, albeit probably subconsciously, to keep other painful memories from his thoughts.  Her father’s behaviour causes Miss Manette to grow up almost instantly and the frightened young girl from last week disappears.  He clings to her as they leave and remains confused and forgetful.  Mr Lorry can’t be surprised that Mr Manette cannot say whether or not he cares for the events.

Week 3: No use crying over spilt wine

Chapter 5 begins with the spilling of red wine on a street in Paris.  There is both a happy atmosphere as people laugh and help each other to drink it and the twisted irony of their appearing to be covered in blood.  The people are poor and starving and the blood emphasises the possibility of their impending deaths.

The action then moves to the wine shop where it would have been delivered where Mr Lorry, accompanied by Miss Manette speaks to the proprietor, Monsieur Defarge about her father.  It turns out that he is locked up in a small dark garret designed for storing firewood and made a show of by Monsieur Defarge to a chosen few.  Miss Manette is afraid of him and Mr Lorry has to almost drag her into the room.  Her father is shown to be making shoes.

The image of a dark, dry room high up in a striking contrast to the start of the chapter on the sunny streets pouring red wine.

Week 2: The end of a ruff journey

Chapter 4 begins with the absence of the two unnamed travellers from the first part.  Mr Lorry, as we now know him to be is described to be like a dog in a kennel.  He is wrapped in straw and has acquired an unusual smell.  This is continued after he has dressed.  He wears a suit of brown, much like a dog and is described as “bright eyed” and sits still waiting for breakfast.  This implies that he is on his guard, like a dog, and this is emphasised by the fact that he says the lady visiting him may ask for a gentleman, and not use his name.  His walk after breakfast walk continues this theme as does the metaphorical digging through his thoughts.  He contradicts this by telling Miss Manette that he has no feelings but while saying this pushes his wig over his ears as a dog may scratch its ears when it is uncomfortable.  This implies that his feelings are present and stronger than he is willing to admit.  The lady who revives Miss Manette treats Mr Lorry like a dog, pushing him out of the way and referring to him as “you in brown”.  He keeps out of the way and withdraws from the scene, reinforcing the impression that he is below the people.

The repetition of best and worst in Chapter 4, the opening line of the novel, would have reminded readers of the series of the beginning and helped them join the parts together.

Week one: The best and worst of times; poetry within prose

Chapter 1 could very easily be arranged into verse.  It begins with several oxymoron, personifies Light and Darkness and has a steady poetic rhythm.  Quoting the Shakespearean iambic pentameter on the cover emphasises this.

Aside from the one name of Mrs Southcott and the identification of England and France everything else is very anonymous.  “A King”, “the musketeers”, “miscellaneous criminals”, keeps the tone of the novel very general and allows Dickens to maintain the mystery achieved with the title of A Tale of Two Cities.

Chapter 2 maintains this anonymity revealing characters slowly.  The passengers from the coach are even wrapped up to such an extent that their faces are indiscernible.  Coupled with the mist there is a sense of mystery and no clue as to where the action is going.  This is emphasised further by the obscurity of the message Mr Lorry gives to Jerry which serves to intrigue both the reader and the guard, Joe.

Chapter 3 is poetic again making great use of imagery and repetition.  The images of shadows and live burial are haunting and, as Gail already said, when the end of the chapter is followed by “the happiest man alive” the irony serves to make readers go cold.