Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities

In the classic novel A Tale of Two Cities, there is a clear distinction between the two classes of people. There are the nobility, the upper class, and the peasants, the lower class. This story takes place during the French Revolution between the years 1771 and 1794, in the cities of London and Paris. During this time, the peasants were fed-up with the way they were being treated by the upper class. Many members of the upper class even referred to the lower class as “dogs”. The nobles lived in the lap of luxury imposing taxes on all of the poors’ hard earned money, while the ragged peasants were starving to death. Many terrifying scenes were in plain sight of the noble’s daily and very few did anything to help. The most obvious display of complete disregard shown by the nobles was when the marquis carriage ran over and killed a boy, and the raping of a pregnant peasant committed by the Evremonde brothers.

Clearly shown in the book, is the nobility’s pure hatred of the lower class. In one instance, a marquis carriage was racing down the narrow inner city streets, with total disregard to any people or objects in its way. Suddenly, the carriage jolts to a halt, upon inspection, the driver sees that a small peasant boy has been caught in the wheel and was killed. When the boy’s father rushes to him and cries out, “Killed! Dead!” the marquis Evremonde, simply threw a gold coin at him. Of course, the peasant doesn’t want anything to do with the noble’s money and left it in the street. Before the carriage drove away, one brave woman threw the coin back into the carriage. This act of rebellion makes the marquis extremely upset, and in a fit of anger he yells out, “I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth. If I knew which rascal threw at the carriage, and if that brigand were sufficiently near it, he could be crushed under the wheels.” and he drives away. This whole time the aristocrat hasn’t even so much as stepped out of the carriage. Apparently, he thought a gold coin is payment for human life. This event is a prelude to the other despicable acts the Evermonde family commits on members of the lower class, including their ‘right’ to throw whoever they like into jail for any reason they choose.

A mystery that is revealed to us in the reading of this novel is the reason why Dr. Manette is held in prison for 18 years of solitary confinement. In the year before his imprisonment, he witnessed a crime committed by two noble brothers, the Evremonde brothers. They thought it would be okay to ‘borrow’ a peasant’s wife and have their way with her simply because she was from the lower class. The woman’s husband, however, wouldn’t allow this to happen. So the Evremondes made him pull their cart like a horse till he broke down and died. With no other man to save her, the brothers took her to a house in the country, which they took over upon arriving, and did what they wanted with her. She had a younger brother, however, who tried to save her and in his attempt, was stabbed by one of the brothers. After being raped by these nobles, the woman went into a trance and screamed for the entire night, repeating the same phrase over and over, “My husband, my father, and my brother! 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12, Hush!” The noble men decide they need a doctor to ‘fix’ her; they turn to Dr. Manette. When he came upon this display and learned the story from the dying younger brother, he was disgusted. After both the woman and brother have died, the Evermonde brothers send the doctor home. Later, he writes a letter to the secretary of the government and tells him of the horrible murders. In the letter, he says, “I Alexander Manette, unhappy prisoner, denounce the Evremonds to the last of their race. I denounce them to Heaven and to earth.” It so happens, that the secretary was friends with the brothers and gave them the letter. In turn for writing that one letter, the doctor was forced into 18 years of imprisonment causing him to have great flaws in his character for the rest of his life.

Dickens makes you feel sorry for the peasants as you read this book, and for good reason. In the end, the peasants stage a revolution and kill any member of the upper class they can get their hands on. All that anger it took to kill so many came from events such as the ones explained that showed just what cruel people most of the nobility were.

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