Essay: A Tale of Two Cities and the Conditions Before the French Revolution

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens uses diction to adopt a tone of pity toward the social conditions of France during the period before the French Revolution. At the beginning of the novel a barrel of wine spills, and the people are depicted as having “devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing, the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish.” The use of the word “devoted” implies that the poor do not have the freedom to eat when they want, as once the wine cask breaks, everyone quickly drops what they are doing so that they can get a few drops of spilled wine off of the street, and they are so desperate for food that they are not letting go of the fragments of wood. Using the words “champing” and “eager relish,” Dickens demonstrates how, although it was just wood, people still excitedly bit and chewed it with enjoyment and delight, attesting to the fact that the peasants of France are so poor and starved that they have to resort to chewing on rotten wood to get a few drops of wine for nourishment, something that someone who might be even marginally better off would not have even thought of doing.

Later on, Dickens describes how “Hunger was the inscription on the baker’s shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread”. The word “scanty” to describe the baker’s stock of “bad” bread emphasizes how there is not enough food for the peasants (which eventually led to the peasant women marching to the palace and taking Louis XVI back to Paris), because although it is the baker’s job to supply the people with food, even he does not have a full larder. The fact that the baker has bad bread demonstrates that bread, which was the staple food of the French diet, is running out or is not being consumed, because the baker does not have enough supplies or resources to make fresh bread as a result of no one being able to buy the bread in the first place. These examples serve to highlight the tone of pity Dickens adopts toward the condition of the peasants in France, as they are reduced to scavenging for food and are not able to sustain themselves, and implies that they had a good reason to rebel. The author’s words serve to highlight the reality of the peasants before the French Revolution, which helped me understand to a greater degree how bad the situation had been, as opposed to just reading the facts in a textbook or article.

-Aliya A.

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

christmas_carol_coverThis terrific novel by Charles Dickens tells a tale of an old, stingy, and wealthy man, Ebenezer Scrooge, and a lesson about Christmas spirit. On a cold foggy Christmas Eve, Mr. Scrooge works in his office as his clerk, Bob Cratchit, attempts to warm himself with a measly fire of one single coal. Seven years ago on this day his equally selfish partner, Jacob Marley, died. One at a time two businessmen, a caroler, and his nephew, Fred, enters Ebenezer’s office. Quickly, he sends them off by saying, ”Bah Humbug!!” Scrooge grunts at the merriness of Christmas as people joyfully pass by.

At the end of the day, he goes to his gloomy mansion. Before he went to bed, he hears chains outside his bedroom. An apparition of Jacob Marley walks through the door! He has a pale white face and bears long, heavy chains with moneyboxes, watches, and cashboxes. The ghastly spirit tells Scrooge his horrific fate. Jacob warns Scrooge that three ghosts are going to appear before him to take him on journeys of Christmas. As Jacob leaves out of the window, Scrooge notices that there are other melancholy ghosts just drifting in the sky. After, he falls asleep disbelieving the existence of the ghosts of Christmas. Do you think his perspective on Christmas will change after the visits of the spirits? To find out- read A Christmas Carol.

I really enjoyed this book. It describes each of the ghosts very well and really gave a feeling of Christmas as you read. Charles Dickens is truly a wonderful writer, and he makes it that you are engaged in this book. I recommend this story to all ages. I hope you will read this book if you have not.

-Samantha S., 8th grade

Charles Dickens Comes to Life On-Screen

Now I’m sure that many sophomores out there in the blogosphere are familiar with a certain book: A Tale of Two Cities. The author of this book, Charles Dickens, is renowned as one of the most brilliant writers of all time.

kelsey_kyle_londonConnecting back to my previous blog, I traveled to London this past summer and visited many historical sites. One of the places I ate at was the George Inn, and I learned while I was in England that Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare were known to frequent the pub and write their stories over meals. I thought that it was fascinating to be able to stand in the same building as two famous writers from about 200 years earlier.

invisible_woman_movieWhen I heard of a movie focusing on the secrets of Dickens’ life, I immediately became intrigued. I think that it would be amazing to have a famous actor/actress act out your life story in a movie! Ralph Fiennes, a well-established Hollywood actor, plays the part of both director and Charles Dickens. One of the main reasons why I think it would be interesting to see the movie is to get a better understanding of who Charles Dickens was, and how that took shape in his writing. Personally, I am finding myself enjoying his novel, A Tale of Two Cities, and although my English class has not yet finished the story, I like the plot of the story and how Dickens shares his opinion of the French Revolution of 1791 with his readers.

I think Charles Dickens was a very talented author of his time period, and his legend will live on through this new movie that reveals the secrets and tells accounts of his life.

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

Book Review: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

christmas_carol_coverThough we’re all wrapping up our holiday celebrations, it’s never too late for the classic Christmas tale A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The book starts off with the main protagonist of the story, Ebenezer Scrooge, on Christmas Eve. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, tries to invite his uncle over for Christmas dinner, but Scrooge says that Christmas is a humbug. After his nephew leaves, two more men come in seeking a donation from Scrooge to give the poor a Christmas dinner. Scrooge, being the rude old man that he is, says the poor must die to “decrease the surplus population.”

At home, the ghost of his dead partner, Marley, visits Scrooge The specter tells him that three spirits will visit him; the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.

The first of the psyches, the Ghost of Christmas Past, takes Scrooge to Christmas events that took place in his youth. These scenes depict his solitary youth, his strong bond with his now dead sister and a Christmas party with his first boss, Mr. Fezziwig.

The second spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Present, shows Scrooge how his nephew was making fun of him. Also the phantom shows Scrooge Bob Crachit’s Christmas feast, where Crachit’s youngest son Tiny Tim is full of happiness, despite the fact that he is very ill

The third pneuma, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to come, shows Scrooge Christmas a year later, where Tiny Tim is dead because Bob Crachit could not afford the treatment on his small salary. Also the spirit shows Scrooge his employees stealing things from his dead corpse.

Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning, a changed man, and sends the prize turkey to Bob Crachit’s family and spends Christmas with his nephew. The book ends with Tiny Tim saying those famous words;“ God bless us, everyone!”

I think this is book is the perfect way to capture the Christmas spirit. If you need an uplifting story about Christmas, then A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is the perfect book for you.

-Anmol K., 7th grade

A Look at A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

christmas_carol_coverThe following essay was originally written for a 7th grade English class.

Can one person hate so many things? Well, if know a man named Ebenezer Scrooge, you would have found out that he is that kind of person. In Charles Dickens’s play, “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge finds a chance to change. During the play you are taken to the past, present, and future Scrooge. Also, Marley gives some key advice to Scrooge that helps him to turn into a genuine man. Slowly, through the conflicts of the play Scrooge realizes the error of his ways on Christmas Day. Dickens points out to the audience that the message is, be happy no matter what, because goods shouldn’t bring you happiness, love should.

“‘But nonetheless they do sing….. Fifteen shillings a week and they do sing.’” (p.635)
This quote represents the message of the whole play, be happy with what you have and don’t be greedy. Money shouldn’t bring you happiness, love should. When this quote occurs in the play, Present is telling Scrooge how thankful the Cratchits are for what they have, which isn’t much. This next quotes represents how ungrateful Scrooge is, of course before he transforms. “‘You will be wanting the whole day tomorrow?……. It’s not convenient, and it’s not fair.’” (p. 607) In this quote Scrooge is talking to Cratchit, he is giving his opinion on how much he wants Cratchit to come the next day and how much he opposes him not choosing to doing that. This last quote represents the change of Scrooge’s personality by the end of the play. “‘I’ll raise your salary…. to assist your struggling family’”(p.653) This quote represents the change of Scrooge’s personality. The message is clearly evident by these quotes.

Dickens’s play “A Christmas Carol” is about how Scrooge massively changes by the end of the play. He turns into a genuine man from a man who couldn’t care less. The message is very clear from this play. It is to be thankful for what you have and not always be wanting more. Dickens’s play send the message that being bad is never good, which should affect the whole world. Because it’s true.

-Satej B., 7th grade

Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

tale_two_cities_coverThis past year, I immersed myself in the study of the history of the world, a mighty feat that required exhaustive hours of reading and memorization. As with most students, I, at times, found this endeavor dry and lifeless, yet, conversely, often I was so captivated by a figure or civilization or event that history ceased to be a chore. To illustrate, an example of such an historical topic is the French Revolution.

Throughout all periods of history, there has been change; for stagnancy is something we humans seem incapable of maintaining. Nonetheless, at the end of the 18th century, change took on a form more radical than ever seen before. Shortly after its American counterpart, the French Revolution consisted of rapid metamorphoses in government and society, spurred by turbulent times and the boiling anger of the French People.

It is easy to find and study these happenings in history books, but the best way to understand the general sentiment of the period, in my opinion, is to read Charles Dickens’ immortal work, A Tale of Two Cities.

Set in both Paris and London (hence the title) at the onset of the French Revolution, Dickens’ tale chronicles the occurrences surrounding a small group of characters, most notably the long-imprisoned Dr. Manette, his near perfect daughter Lucie, and her husband the, as the reader comes to learn, French noble Charles Darnay. In the first book of this three-part novel, Lucie and the Tellson’s Banker, Mr. Jarvis Lorry, travel to Paris to retrieve the former’s father, who was previously thought to be dead but has, instead, been released from a lengthy imprisonment in La Bastille.

This action sets the basis for the rest of the tale and the second book, where, as it commences, the reader is introduced to Charles Darnay, who is being tried for treason against England. Upon his acquittal, Darnay begins a life in England and eventually comes to wed Lucie. Yet simultaneously, in France, the reader observes the wine-shop owners of Saint Antoine, Madame and Monsieur Defarge, who are at the forefront of the revolution as they lead the storming of the Bastille and the resistance against the French nobility. A son of the aristocracy, Charles is summoned to help by the proprietor of the estate of his uncle, whom we know as the Marquis. Yet, as both an immigrant and a noble, Charles is imprisoned in Paris, and so Lucie and her father travel to the aforementioned city in a desperate attempt to save their loved one.

I shall not discuss the climax and conclusion of the novel; that, reader, is for you to discover on your own. But I warn of the turmoil of the events that transpire subsequent to the actions stated above. The revolution is unrelenting in its wrath, and quite frightening, especially as it is manifested in the character of Madame Defarge herself. Ultimately, however, the indomitable spirit of the tale’s protagonists yield them a bittersweet refuge from the terror of the new French Republic.

Dickens is truly innovative; through the lens of a few characters, he is able to summarize and recount a whole period of turbulence, and, in so doing, seems to provide his own critical view of an epoch we now see as influential in the establishment of liberty and democracy in the west. One may read this novel for the entertainment of the gripping plot and richness of the majority of the novel’s characters alone, yet there is much greater historical resonance to A Tale of Two Cities below the textual surface. It is this ingenuity Dickens offers that has allowed his novel to obtain its status as a timeless classic of English literature.

-Sebastian R., 11th grade