A STEP BEYOND
11. Dickens regards the mobs he creates with mixed emotions. You may want to explore each side of his reaction. On a conscious level he sees the mob as a blind, unreasoning force, and disapproves. Subconsciously he's fascinated by mob violence.
Compare several different mobs in the novel: the Londoners who make a riot of Roger Cly's funeral procession; the conquerors of the Bastille; the rioters of the bloody September massacres. What does Dickens show them doing?
What words does he use to describe them? Discuss what Dickens wants you to think about these mindless rioters.
Yet to carry out his political themes Dickens also sympathizes with the rioters' motives. Discuss how he fits these scenes of street violence into his political statements and his themes.
Finally, consider why Dickens gave such extended, vivid treatment to these mob scenes. Dickens writes vigorously about the mob perhaps because at a deep, unconscious level, he identifies with it. Discuss the effect of this dramatic intensity on your emotional reaction to the novel.
12. Dickens introduces fate as early as the first chapter, personified as "The Woodman, Fate." Discuss how this figure prepares us for the bloody Revolution. What forces in history seem to be at work?
Now turn to discuss how individual characters are caught irretrievably in the web of events. For example, Lucie Manette hears echoes of hundreds of footsteps, which are fated to thunder into her life. Charles Darnay is drawn to France- and personal peril- as if pulled by a magnet. Look also at the Marquis St. Evremonde, Madame Defarge, John Barsad. Finally, discuss how Dickens' larger patterns of structure- his use of coincidence and tightly interconnected subplots- express a sense that fate cannot be controlled.
13. Begin by setting up certain things that water may stand for, such as a source of life, the unstoppable flow of fate, cleansing renewal, or the obliteration of death. Then devote one paragraph to each of three examples of water imagery.
For example, water appears in fountains- in the square of Saint Antoine, in the Marquis' impoverished village, and at his chateau. Look also at water running in rivers. Discuss how bodies of water appear in the book: you might want to compare what they seem to symbolize in two or three different stages of the story.
You might also look at places where Dickens brings in water imagery as a metaphor, to express the nature of something else. For example, the mob is compared to a rising, angry sea, a natural phenomenon gone berserk. Alone in his prison cell, Darnay prepares for his "journey to the boundless everlasting sea"; for Sydney Carton, dying in Darnay's stead, life flashes away "like one great heave of water." Here you will need to quote images directly from the novel, and discuss the passages in which they appear.
14. TRUE. Discuss how the action of the novel turns on coincidences large and small, and compare this to the haphazard nature of real life. Do you feel manipulated by this, and if so, how does it affect your response to the novel in general? To support your view you should analyze a couple of coincidences that seem especially implausible to you. For example, Miss Pross runs into her long-lost brother, Solomon. Discuss this episode's dramatic effect and its relation to the plot.
FALSE. Discuss how the novel's coincidences are plausible within the boundaries of the novel itself. First of all, analyze Dickens' thematic structure of parallels and contrasts, and his plot structure of closely interrelated characters. Are you surprised that these same characters turn up again and again? How do their reappearances further not only the plot, but also the novel's meaning?
Then zero in on a particular example of Dickens' closely crafted artistry. Ernest Defarge, for example, is a prototype of the Revolutionary leader: he's in the thick of all action related to the uprisings; his presence at Darnay's arrest may seem pat, but it is consistent with his role. As for John Barsad, quintessentially a spy, he fills in whenever a spy is needed.
How does Dickens prepare us for his coincidences? Look, for instance, at Miss Pross' brother- what do we know of him before he turns up? How does Dickens "plant" the coincidence of Roger Cly's connection with Barsad? Does this make the plot development seem more inevitable than coincidental? How do these events fit into the larger theme of fate?
15. Begin by discussing what the effect of paired scenes might be. Relate this briefly to other doubles in the novel, such as Carton and Darnay, or London and Paris. Then introduce the pair of scenes you will discuss. Here are some possible pairs.
The novel opens and closes with a fateful journey. In Book I, Chapter 2 Jarvis Lorry travels to recall Dr. Manette to life; in III, 15 Sydney Carton rides to his death. Lorry's journey introduced the prevailing theme of resurrection, while Carton's takes the theme to its culmination.
Lucie Manette twice faints in a courtroom where Charles Darnay is being tried; Sydney Carton twice sees to her comfort. Lucie's first fainting spell, in the Old Bailey, alerts us to her growing tenderness toward Darnay. Similarly, Carton's reaction tells us he's grown interested in her. In III, 12, after Darnay has been condemned to die, Carton carries out Darnay's wife's limp figure, showing his great love for Lucie- and his intention to lay down his life for her.
Carton twice saves Darnay from unjust execution, both times relying on their close physical resemblance. The outcome of Darnay's trial gives Carton the idea of substituting himself for Darnay at the end of the novel.
Whichever scenes you choose, analyze first one then the other in detail, placing them in the plot and relating them to the novel's themes.
© Copyright 1984 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.