A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities as a movie (1980) that I watched lately presents, through its scenography, a tangible world equipped to paint a reasonably vivid picture of the times that Dickens had more brilliantly and fantastically drawn through his words. The movie compelled me to invite Dickens in, and accordingly I finished, of course after several years, the second reading of the novel. As usual, and as I believe, the novel mesmerized me, not the movie, but yes, the latter did not disappoint me as I liked its cinematography with particular reference to depiction of characters and all necessary ingredients attached to them, and the manner in which the atmosphere of both cities (London and Paris) was established, inter alia, action and overall scene of the French Revolution.
Nonetheless, the bird of my imagination was at full liberty when my eyes feasted on the lines of the novel. My mind could soar high above the cliffs of concrete boundaries the movie maker had drawn through his filming, and could like a hawk swoop down over the obstacles that the director had posed. Paradoxically, I felt myself in Paris and London while I brushed against the cheeks of the lines Dickens wrote than the visual atmosphere that the movie provided me with. I enjoyed with the characters and walked in the streets of Paris with Lucie Manette when she searched for Charles Darnay’s prison room along with her baby, argued with the jury in London when Darnay was about to be pronounced guilty of being a spy of Paris, rode the horse-carriage through the burnt town of the French with the whole family of Dr. Manette and Darnay towards London, imprisoned my soul in Bastille and La Force with prisoners, hit the nails on the shoes Dr. Manette mended, kissed Lucie’s hands when Carton intended to do so, controlled my wrath when Madame Therese Defarge planned to punish the descendants of Evrémonde, got relieved when John Barsad was made to change his statement as to Darnay’s identity, and guillotined my feelings when the Seamstress and Sydney Carton held tight each other’s hands before falling victim to the guillotine. I breathed everywhere with the novelist, be it the places of romance or the spots of brutality, the latter being the prominent one. Indeed, the novel revolved around the times when the world was to witness a history in the making. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” (Dickens)
Dickens, more appropriately and precisely, Charles John Huffam Dickens, was born in Portsmouth, England in 1812 and died in 1870. Once visiting Portsmouth in 2008 I had visualized the times when Dickens was born, and imagined him grown up (though he did not stay longer in Portsmouth) in the smaller streets of the town, exchanged ideas on novel writing, developing a plot, mastering the language and above all characterization. He couldn’t help me much at Portsmouth but at the library desks he flooded me with his art and passion. In addition to his greatness, some writers with their critical input reminded me of the fact that Dickens’ characters, in most cases, tended to be flat than round. Here I am referring to Aspects of the Novel (1927), a book by E. M. Forster. But there is more than meets the eye. I leave what I learnt from him for some other time. However, I adore his genius and pay homage to him with this piece of writing. Indeed, he was a legend. Ralph Waldo Emerson once remarked “I am afraid he has too much talent for his genius; it is a fearful locomotive to which he is bound and can never be free from it nor set to rest…He daunts me! I have not the key.”