Thursday, March 20, 2008

Violent Resistance

There are those who have argued that the only justified revolution is a peaceful revolution. There are others who have argued that violence is a necessary component of political revolution. Dickens seems torn on this issue, at times arguing that the revolution is necessary and even inevitable, at other times criticizing the revolution for its violence and brutality. When (if ever) is violence justified as a response to political oppression? Are there other, better routes to freedom, or are oppressed people justified in rising up against their oppressors?


This may not be the most politically correct book we could have read this semester; Dickens uses stereotypes of men versus women, the English versus the French, and the aristocrats versus the peasants. What do you make of his stereotyping? Is it offensive? Is it simply a product of his time? Does it ring true?

Lucie vs. Madame Defarge

Lucie is the beautiful, caring, devoted wife of Charles Darnay. She may be Charles Dickens' idea of the perfect woman. Madame Defarge, on the other hand, is evil incarnate. Brutal, vengeful, overbearing and sinister, she may be Charles Dickens' notion of all the very worst characteristics of humanity. Which of these two characters do you like better? Which is the most interesting? Which is the most human of the two?

Carton vs. Darnay

Darnay is the handsome, caring, and loyal husband of Lucie. A man who gives up his title and fortune to work as a teacher and then is caught up in the violence of the revolution and condemned to death. Carton is a drunken, churlish lawyer who wastes his life and talents until his final crowning moment of selfless sacrifice. Which character do you like more? Which is more admirable? Which is the most believable?

Collective Guilt

The concept of collective guilt is very controversial. Used by the Nazis during the holocaust, then used against the German people after World War II, it is a blade that cuts both ways. More recently, Ward Churchill lost his job as a professor at CU after an investigation that began when he argued that the collective guilt of many of the workers in the World Trade Center meant that they were military targets, not innocent victims. Collective Guilt is an important theme in A Tale of Two Cities. The concept is applied by peasants and aristocrats alike. What do you think about the idea of finding a whole group of people guilty for allowing crimes to be committed by a few? Is it fair? Is it effective?


"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." --Tom Clancy

Over the years critics have debated about Dickens' use of coincidence as a plot device. A Tale of Two Cities contains a number of amazing coincidences and Dickens' never apologized for it, declaring that coincidences happen all the time in real life, so why shouldn't they happen in fiction? Do you agree with Tom Clancy or with Charles Dickens--should fiction always be completely believable? Does Dickens' use of coincidence add to or take away from the book?