A Tale Of Two Cities Notes

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A Tale of Two Cities - Book I (Chapters 1 - 4)
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . ."
Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities with this famous sentence. It describes the spirit of the era in which this novel takes place. This era is the latter part of the 1700s - a time when relations between Britain and France were strained, America declared its independence, and the peasants of France began one of the bloodiest revolutions in history. In short, it was a time of liberation and a time of terrible violence. Dickens describes the two cities at the center of the novel: Paris, a city of extravagance, aristocratic abuses, and other evils that lead to revolution and London, a city rife with crime, capital punishment, and disorder. In both cities, the capabilities of an angry mob were a dangerous thing, to be feared by all.
The tale begins on a road between London and Dover (in southern England) in 1775. Three strangers in a carriage are traveling along this dangerous road. The carriage encounters a messenger on a horse who asks for one of the passengers, Jarvis Lorry of Tellson's Bank. They are wary, because the messenger could be a highwayman, robber, or other undesirable. However, Mr. Lorry ventures out into the rain to receive the message. He recognizes the messenger as a man named Jerry, who works for Tellson's Bank, as well. Jerry tells him to wait at Dover for the young lady. Lorry tells Jerry to relay to the people at the Bank this message: Recalled to Life. Jerry has no idea what it means and rides off into the rain.
Dickens then ponders how the heart of a person is a true mystery. Lorry can tell who or at least of what class the two other passengers are. Traveling on, Lorry dozes in and out of dreams. His dreams reveal to the reader that his mission is to metaphorically dig a man out of the grave. He dreams of imaginary conversations with this man he is to recall to life. "Buried how long?" Lorry always asks. "Almost eighteen years," replies the man. Lorry brings the man in his dreams to see a woman (the young woman of which Jerry the messenger spoke). But the man does not know if he still wishes to live or if he can bear to see the young lady after having been "buried" for eighteen long years.

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