I’ve read Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities before. In high school, sophomore year.
This would be an excellent example of a teacher you have destroying a book you read.
A Tale of Two Cities is not a book that you look to for statements about the objectification of women. It’s not a book where you talk about how the hero of the story is secretly selfish because he hopes, one day, to be remembered.
A Tale of Two Cities is a book where you talk about the redemption of human beings, and love, and symbolism, and fabulous prose. It’s a book where heroes are heroes and villains are deliciously evil.
It’s a book where, if you’re reading it in high school with an English teacher who sells herself as an intellectual but pedals pseudo-intellectual bullshit, you ignore everything your English teacher has to say and just enjoy the story.
There is something to the criticism that the characters here are a bit flat; Lucie is loving and supporting and never changes and it’s borderline cringeworthy in. The Marquis is evil and unabashedly enjoys it. The most developed character is easily Sydney Carton.
I love Sydney Carton. I didn’t know it in the 10th grade, but I knew this time through, that he was suffering from depression and self-medicating with alcohol, and he let his law partner get the credit for his true legal brilliance because, basically, he just didn’t care. He was selfless, and smart, and I adored him.
There was only one, gaping plot hole in this book that I either didn’t hear because I missed it while I was simultaneously doing something else, like driving (entirely possible), or because there was just one, gaping plot hole that was never explained:
how did Carton know to show up in Paris? After reading the plot summary, I guess it’s because the family was gone from London for so long? Anyway, if anyone knows for sure, I’d be glad to hear it.
If you hated A Tale of Two Cities in high school, I highly suggest revisiting it, particularly as an audiobook. It’s still wordy AF. It can still be a bit slow in spots. But I appreciated it so much more this time. In contrast to my newfound warmer feelings for Sydney Carton, were my much stronger repulsive feeling to Madame Defarge. I somehow missed the first time through exactly how evil she was. She’s great to hate. And I hated her so much more this time.
Dickens has his reputation as one of the greatest writers the English language has ever produced, and I get it. I get it now. I hope you give yourself the chance to get it, too.