A Tale of Two Cities is a story set during the French Revolution when the oppressed common folk could no longer withstand the apathy of the ruling class and took over the castle and imprisoned everyone who seemed affluent. The latter’s fault being that they were not poor. The charges being that, for generations, they did nothing to better the lives of everyone around them. The accusations being that they abused, physically and mentally, the poor. All those who faced these charges were thrown into the prisons and sentenced to death, with no formal hearing or justification. To be executed. In public. By the strike of the guillotine christened as La Guillotine – a symbol of their freedom. Execution soon becomes the need of the hour, feeding La Guillotine with hundreds of heads becomes the only thing they look forward to every day. Human nature takes a beating. Society as a whole takes a beating.
When humans are suppressed for a long long time and are treated as nothing less than animals, they become that. In fact, they become worse. No sympathy, no law of the land, no compassion, no conscience and most importantly no forgiveness.
And in between this rises a story of love.
Such were the times that brought together the lives of Dr Manette – an innocent Frenchman imprisoned for a long time in an unmarked cell, unaware about his family’s condition and driven to the point of insanity, Lucy Manette – a beautiful young girl who till recently didn’t know her father existed and once she is made aware of takes upon with the duty of tending him back to sanity, Mr. Lorry – an Englishman, a banker and a faithful friend of the Manettes, Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton – one French and the other English, caught in the turmoils of the ongoing French revolution, each with a dark secret, one with a price to pay for his inheritance and the other for love.
Safely housed in England, everyone is forced to enter France, when Charles Darnay goes with an intent to rescue a family caretaker but finds himself imprisoned.
Starting with the unique circumstance under which the father and daughter are united and taken away safely to England, Charles Dickens tells a story of human emotions and secrets which costs them dearly, circumstances that test their loyalty, situations where you understand and empathise with the wrongdoers as much as you want to keep safe the central characters that you have begun to like. And amidst this is a tale of love triumphing above all. From the most unexpected quarters. In one of its truest forms – sacrifice.
Be prepared to get emotional as you go deeper into this book, be prepared to rationalise with both sides, and most importantly, be prepared to fall in love with a character you never thought much of and wish that you could’ve seen them more.
A Tale of Two Cities is a novel famous for its starting lines – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”
But I believe it is the last lines that make you wish it isn’t over yet, make your eyes well up and create that awkward lump in your throat –
“It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done before, It is a far far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
Lump in the throat? Yes, I can feel it too.
Photos: Remya Nair