Don't Know Dickens

Charles Dickens, that is.

Recalls are never good

Book the First: Recalled to Life

Maybe “Recalled to Life” is supposed to have a positive connotation, but when I hear or read the word “recall” I usually think of bad news. And dangerous products. Needless to say, I was rather confused with the words recall and life in a phrase at first. How can you recall life? This was a case where my brain just wasn’t working–because I did not recall that the word also means to remember. I felt slightly better when Mr. Lorry points at that the phrase “may mean anything,” which also read likes a warning.

 

There seems to be quite a bit for Dickens’ readers to remember about 1775, and most of it was bad, particularly for the poor in France. In the “Wine-Shop” chapter, the word “hunger” is used as a subject of the sentence eight times. Dickens seems to comment more directly about the social issues in Tale of Two Cities than in Edwin Drood or Our Mutual Friend. Readers can draw plenty of conclusions about people and how they live through the descriptions of characters like the Boffins or the Veneerings, but Tale seems to more obviously develop these issues in the elaborate descriptions of people and places.

Why read historical novels?

The answer is definitely a cliche: historical novels bring history to life, of course. It is hard to imagine life in another time and place, but books help readers imagine what life might have been like. For instance, when one man says, “A bitter taste it is that such poor cattle always have in their mouths, and hard lives they live” in reference to the poor in town, the reader can understand both the class differences and the extent of poverty and hunger.

The foreshadowing adds interest. For instance, when the wine is spilled, Dickens suggest that soon it will be blood: “The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones,” which gives the story layers. The reader, then, thinks not only what has happened to the characters and what is happening, but also must consider the known-future that is part of the story.

Relating Tale to the Other Stuff

Are people constantly dying and reappearing in Dickens’ time? Seriously, I thought these story lines only happened in soap operas. For the rest of the semester, I will be open to the possibility of a character’s resurrection.

Why wasn’t Miss Manette happier when she learns that he father lives? Her initial reaction seems selfish: “I have been free, I have been happy, yet his ghost has never haunted me!” I can’t decide if she is being astoundingly honest (because her father will need lots of help to recover, which she must provide) or is she being selfish? Does this bring me back to “recall to life” as a negative?

 

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One thought on “Recalls are never good

  1. I really enjoyed your perspective on the “recalled to life” theme. I have yet to think of it in a negative light, but it I see how it could be interpreted that way. This point of view definitely can give alternative meanings in the way A Tale of Two Cities is perceived. It’s always good to rethink things with a different perspective and I enjoyed your thoughts on it!

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