This past week, Literary Life has been featuring chapter three of On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior. It’s the chapter entitled “Justice,” and the book featured by Prior to illustrate the idea is A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
After A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities is likely Dickens’ most popular work. We like and remember it for is opening statement of contrasts, for the horrific mob scenes in the Paris of the revolutionary Terror, and for the sacrifice of the ne’er-do-well lawyer Sydney Carton, substituting his life for that Charles Darnay might be saved from the guillotine. And it was a sacrifice for love; Carton loved Darnay’s wife, Lucie, and he knew it would always be an unrequited love.
I first read the story in a Classic Illustrated comic book edition. Shortly afterward, our reading teacher in eighth grade included it on our reading list, a list that also included some decidedly non-eighth-grade works like Day of the Triffids and Alas, Bablyon, both about the world after great catastrophes. Prompted by some concerned parents, the principal reprimanded the teacher, but A Tale of Two Cities stayed on the list.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Literary Life.