Thursday, February 7, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

The following is a fictional overview/narrative I have written on A Tale of Two Cities. I wrote it in the form of a journal entry by a very dear and close friend of Sydney Carton. The man making this entry is a fictional character that I have created for the sole purpose of relaying the story outline of A Tale of Two Cities in an interesting way, while at the same time trying to avoid using a character from the book.
A Tale of Two Cities was written in 1859 by Charles Dickens who was the foremost English novelist of the Victorian Era, and is acclaimed as one of history’s greatest novelists. An interesting “hidden fact” that I found out about the relationship of Dickens with two of the book’s characters, is that Charles Dickens’s initials are C.D. Charles Darnay, one of the main characters in the book, has the same initials. And Sydney Carton, in Dickens’s earlier drafts, had a forename of Dick, therefore his initials were D.C. The same initials as the first two, just backwards.
This novel is also acclaimed as the best story ever written with a setting in the time period during the French Revolution. Dickens had a keen interest in French history; and being born less than forty years after the occurrences of the revolution might also have been reason for his writing this story during that time.

September 15th, 1793 in the Year of Our Lord

I sit here in my humble house in Paris, at the charred desk as always. I have not written for several days…no, it has been a fortnight — how the time flitters behind me like a bird when my mind is engrossed in so many things. As I sit here I can hardly hear my thoughts for the sake of the loud mob outside in the square. I can hardly describe the view outside the window on my right, only that heathens by the thousands are thronged outside, all decked in blue hats with their devilish rosettes, the color of the blood that runs this very second from the stand where hundreds of people have met the cruel blade face to face. Even now the liquid which once possessed the body of living and innocent men, women, and even crying babes seeps through the cracks in the cobblestones, soaking the earth with its fresh warmth.
I grew tired months ago of hearing the continuous screams of the people dragged up the steps to their death — O Lord give me the courage! I grew tired of the malicious voices and cursings of the insurgent executioners, as they beat and shout with full force at the aristocrat people they murder. I grew tired ages ago of my mind counting the number of steady times that the Blade of Death came slicing down, stopping with a cushioned clang. But now…there is no stopping myself from counting the continuous ruckus, and rattling, and thumping as it dislodges another head, for how could I? Vicious tears etch my cheeks this very moment, and blotch the page I am laboring so hard to write these words on. Oh! The dreaded number looms quickly. That dreaded number when another precious life shall leave this world. The dreaded number when I shall lose the dearest friend that I have. 23 looms in my ears and head like a ghost in a graveyard — torturing me continuously, beating upon me like a barbarian with a club.
17 — the rattle is loud and quick…thump. The head rolls into the stained basket…. A loud cheer erupts and the chanting begins, slow and steady, “…next…next…next…next….” “Give us another!” One voice roars. It echoes in my head like a bell.
The reason I write now, is because I must occupy my hands with other than caressing my head, and beating the wall. My friend is to die…it is the will of God…not can change it now — but God please! But no, God has made it clear to me that it is over, Sydney will die, but he will not die for not. I have a strong urge inside my stomach to honor Sydney in some way as I sit here…and I must. I can think of nothing else at the moment but to tell of why Sydney must die…to tell his story…to show whoever might read this entry after my death how Sydney Carton died an honorable man…how he sacrificed himself for those around him….
My dear friend Carton was an English Barrister, or as some call it, a lawyer. How did I meet him? Well it was by chance, actually. We met on the street in extremely odd circumstances, which I shall avoid telling now for it is irrelevant. But Carton soon came to know his love for a young lady, of the name of Lucie Mannette. Lucie herself was of the most oddest background. Miss Manette’s father was a doctor, whom she had rescued from prison not more than five years before.
Dr. Alexander Mannette was not a dishonorable man, nor deserving of being placed in prison. When two noblemen requested him to tend to a woman slave that was under their care, Mannette was quick to help. From what I understand from Carton, the woman had been abused. The nobleman who possessed her, the name of Evremonde, had killed her brother and done horrific crimes against her family. Alexandre, upon coming to know this reported to authorities of the crimes of the Marquis Evremonde. For the supposed attempted disgrace of Evremonde’s crimes, Mannette was sentenced to prison without charges. For eighteen years the good doctor was in Bastille, and during that time he hid a letter he had written in his own blood, denouncing all of the Evremonde family.
The doctor became a crazed man, having no eyes for anything but his shoe-making…that is until his daughter Lucie came. She saved his life, so to speak. The man recovered almost fully.
Five years after the saving of the doctor, Carton decided to pursue Lucie for her hand in marriage. Of course I fully approved, but soon found out from Carton that she had accepted another man’s hand…Charles Darnay, of whom they were acquainted since traveling to England together by ship. Carton called on me daily after this news, mainly to relay his jealousy of Darnay to me; many times he was so drunk he could not see to get through the door. It was trying for me to see him in this state, and I beseeched the Lord in every way to help him get over it, and to give me the ability to counsel him.
Soon after the marriage of Darnay to Lucie, Darnay traveled to Paris, for reasons which are unknown to me, only that he received a letter by chance that led him to France. Upon arriving in the revolutionary ruined Paris, Darnay was accused of being an immigrant, and was put in Prison. He was acquitted of the crime by Doctor Mannette who traveled with his daughter to France to testify for him. If only that had been enough! The next day Charles was arrested again on the charges of being denounced. I was there at the court that day as they read the found letter aloud. Alas! It was the letter by Alexandre Mannette, in which he had denounced the Evremondes. Charles, as I soon learned, was the son of the Marquis Evremonde whom had murdered the peasants and done crimes against the peasant girl, whom Mannette had doctored. Nothing Mannette could say would change the minds of the rebel court, even though the doctor was a highly respected man in Paris. They sentenced Darnay to the guillotine within 24 hours.
Alas! That evening, Carton relayed to me his plans of taking Charles’s place in his cell. I pleaded with him, selfishly I now see, to think again of what he was speaking; but nothing would deter Sydney. He told me that if Darnay died, he would lose so much, and so many would lose him. So many people that loved him. Darnay would also lose his whole life that lay ahead of him, he would never see his daughter grow, his wife would be heartbroken, and worst of all, widowed.
“…but what do I have to lose?” he asked me. There was no one in his life that cared for him as a husband or father. I was his only friend, he said. “I must do this, to save a life worth more than a thousand of my own…,” was his last argument.
My last goodbye to him was quick, and short. We both wept and embraced while I gasped for words to persuade him again. I was at a loss for words as he stepped towards the door that stands behind my back at this very moment.
“Charles was to meet death as the 23rd,” he said quietly, and somberly, before stepping through the door and closing it behind him.
The time as I write this is a quarter past three. Another of my tears drops to this page, wetting it through. All I can think is of the glorious times I and Carton had once, but no more.
Thump! I count 22.
Oh Lord! Help me to be bold! Bless his soul! Please my God!
Thump! I count 23…

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