I recently finished reading the Charles Dickens’s classic, A Tale of Two Cities, a story of sacrifice and revenge before and during revolutionary France. Dickens was partially inspired to write the novel to to develop some of the themes he had addressed in previous novels, namely poverty. He insisted that if things did not change, violent revolution in England, similar to the French Revolution, was possible. He was wrong then, but the French Revolution is not a lesson easily ignored in our age, where men and women are forced to beg for work, and enslave themselves to keep it.
Looking back on classic literature like Dickens, I’m stunned at the relevancy of it all. The introduction begins with one of the most recognizable openings in all of English literature.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
The contrast between two sets of characteristics shows a society crumbling at the foundations, while illusions and arrogance are common elsewhere among the elite class. Here, Dickens states that pre-revolutionary France 80 or 90 years prior was not so different than England in his time. The people were suffering; the politicians, out of touch and believing they were secure, were content to wallow in the excesses of profound luxury. As Dickens says, it was “like the present period.” Read More