Sunday, September 19, 2010

A tale of two cities is Dickens’s most impersonal novel, especially because of the grand objectivity of historical events with which it deals. Discuss. (P.U 2006)

Dickens, as a novelist, stands out for drawing attention to social evils, his humanism, his philosophic vision of life, his belief in the goodness of man, his characters and his use of humour, pathos and imagination. A Tale of Two Cities is a tale of two cities Paris and London and the French Revolution against which the story of a few characters is narrated. He skilfully weaves private lives and public events, fact and fiction, history and imagination.

His blend of reality and fantasy is a result of his creative imagination. Though he writes about the Revolution, he has coloured the novel with fantasy. Though he focuses on the Revolution, its causes and effects, his main emphasis is on the meaningless horrors of the Revolution as in the context of the lives of a few private individuals. In doing so he makes use
of fantasy.         
The element of fantasy is a result of his creative imagination. Insanity as a theme also enhances this element. Dr. Manette looks insane after his release and his ghost-like appearance lends an element of fantasy to the novel. He makes shoes to escape from his past. He gradually overcomes his fits of madness due to the love bestowed on him by Lucie. However, when he comes to know that Charles is an Evremonde, the past haunts him once again and he resorts to shoe-making. The ghost-like man once again borders on insanity. Thus, the state of fantasy becomes an important part of his character.
When Charles is imprisoned the other prisoners appear to be ghosts of their former selves. All this is a part of fantasy having its root in psychic impulse.
Graphic Details
The basic details of the Revolution are interwoven with the effects of Revolution on individuals. The graphic details of its horrific and nightmarish side, the fall of the Bastille and the Grindstone etc., all make the novel a mixture of reality and fantasy. However, to Dickens the Revolution is a lurid story of violence, vengeance and malevolence. He has drawn vivid pictures of execution and the La Guillotine. Insanity and frenzy is seen all round as corpses rot and the tumbrils move to and fro. The revolutionaries are waiting to devour the aristocrats who in their turn are waiting to be guillotined.
"Doubling" plays a major role in the novel as a part of fantasy or something which appears bit improbable to our natural senses. Dr. Manette is imprisoned and he loses his sanity. He is then restored to normal life by his daughter but this insanity recurse with the unveiling of Charles's actual identity. It is the doubling of his madness. Darnay is re-arrested. Now Dr. Manette is the accuser who was once victim. Sydney Carton resembles Charles Darnay in his appearance. All these have been criticized as improbable or forced but they do contribute to the fast-paced action of the plot.
A Story of Suffering
Against this view of the revolution, Dickens has given another picture that is imaginative. Dr Manette is a symbol of suffering whose past haunts him throughout. Lucie is sweet loving and compassionate towards all. Charles disowns his legacy to expiate for the sins, of his ancestors. Sydney Carton, the profligate who cares for no one becomes a symbol of self-sacrifice, love, humanity and resurrection.
Thus, the Revolution incorporates personal incidents with history. As a result the larger dimensions of history are ignored. Dickens is not a historian, but a novelist. As an artist, he successfully blends reality and fantasy.

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