Monday, September 22, 2008

The Big Read III: A Tale of Two Cities: Bk 2: Ch. 21-24

A Tale of Two Cities

Book 2: Chapter 21: Echoing Footsteps (more)

(Because I've used Google Notebook, I've retained the format for my comments from there...while I used to indent the quotes, now my own comments are indented. All excerpts from Dickens are in italics. Unless there's something I'm missing, Notebook is a bit tedious for trying to get the bits in order...they're saved from newest to oldest, thus from last to first. I can't find a simple way to flip that around.)

At first, there were times, though she was a perfectly happy young wife, when her work would slowly fall from her hands, and her eyes would be dimmed. For, there was something coming in the echoes, something light, afar off, and scarcely audible yet, that stirred her heart too much. Fluttering hopes and doubts--hopes, of a love as yet unknown to her: doubts, of her remaining upon earth, to enjoy that new delight--divided her breast.
Does some part of her know it should have been Sydney? What if she knew of her husband's secret identity? Will she ever?
Her husband's step was strong and prosperous among them; her father's firm and equal. Lo, Miss Pross, in harness of string, awakening the echoes, as an unruly charger, whip-corrected, snorting and pawing the earth under the plane-tree in the garden!
I like the plane-tree. What might it signify? It is often mentioned with the echoes. Could it be a harbinger of the past or of the future? Or a symbol of a well-rooted family? She loses her golden-haired boy angel, raises her rambunctious daughter.
The polite rejection of the three lumps of bread-and-cheese had quite bloated Mr. Stryver with indignation, which he afterwards turned to account in the training of the young gentlemen, by directing them to beware of the pride of Beggars, like that tutor-fellow. He was also in the habit of declaiming to Mrs. Stryver, over his full-bodied wine, on the arts Mrs. Darnay had once put in practice to "catch" him...
Stryver: bombastic as ever. He has his stepsons give a measly wedding gift, and calls Darnay a Beggar. Carton otoh is taken under the wings of the angels of his Angel.

"What is the magic secret, my darling, of your being everything to all of us, as if there were only one of us, yet never seeming to be hurried, or to have too much to do?" Charles said to Lucie.

"A bad look, you say, my dear Darnay? Yes, but we don't know what reason there is in it. People are so unreasonable! Some of us at Tellson's are getting old, and we really can't be troubled out of the ordinary course without due occasion."
They're getting old at Tellson's? I thought that was on purpose. For a tale of two cities, London gets more air time...but the echoes of Paris always rumble around Darnay.
...and a forest of naked arms struggled in the air like shrivelled branches of trees in a winter wind: all the fingers convulsively clutching at every weapon or semblance of a weapon that was thrown up from the depths below, no matter how far off.
In England, a plane-tree, in France, a forest of arms. Such peaceful family echoes in England, such a surreal war scene in France.
"What is the meaning of One Hundred and Five, North Tower?" asked Defarge. "Quick!"
Defarge has a purpose, seeks the secret left by Manette.
...was so close to him when he dropped dead under it, that, suddenly animated, she put her foot upon his neck, and with her cruel knife--long ready--hewed off his head.
Madame Defarge is the ruthless one. Mr. Defarge didn't find what he was looking for in Alexandre Manette's old cell. What does he wish to know?
Now, Heaven defeat the fancy of Lucie Darnay, and keep these feet far out of her life! For, they are headlong, mad, and dangerous; and in the years so long after the breaking of the cask at Defarge's wine-shop door, they are not easily purified when once stained red.
Charles could never be more than a symbol to these people, never mind his rejection of his birthright. Of course this means he will return to France and he will be discovered by the bloodthirsty revolutionaries. It's still hard to say whether we're meant to like him. There's still something that needs resolving about the past.
Every lean bare arm, that had been without work before, had this work always ready for it now, that it could strike. The fingers of the knitting women were vicious, with the experience that they could tear. There was a change in the appearance of Saint Antoine; the image had been hammering into this for hundreds of years, and the last finishing blows had told mightily on the expression.
The revolution has begun. I must look up Saint Antoine.
Saint Antoine slept, the Defarges slept: even The Vengeance slept with her starved grocer, and the drum was at rest. The drum's was the only voice in Saint Antoine that blood and hurry had not changed.
The drum? I don't remember the drum. So many details.... Everything and everybody gets renamed in a revolution. So will Charles Darnay escape a bloody fate due to his own name change?
Far and wide lay a ruined country, yielding nothing but desolation. Every green leaf, every blade of grass and blade of grain, was as shrivelled and poor as the miserable people. Everything was bowed down, dejected, oppressed, and broken. Habitations, fences, domesticated animals, men, women, children, and the soil that bore them--all worn out.
Two cities, one devastated by poverty into revolution, the other ordinary lives. I'm trying to keep an eye on the reason for the title...a family's fate threaded through the two cities? The contrast? The historical weight?
Presently, the chateau began to make itself strangely visible by some light of its own, as though it were growing luminous. Then, a flickering streak played behind the architecture of the front, picking out transparent places, and showing where balustrades, arches, and windows were.
...The mender of roads, and two hundred and fifty particular friends, stood with folded arms at the fountain, looking at the pillar of fire in the sky. "It must be forty feet high," said they, grimly; and never moved.
40 feet the gallows for Gaspard. The people put candles in windows to echo the fire of the chateau. How grisly. Was this already a Christmas custom?
Chapter 24: Drawn to the Loadstone Rock

In such risings of fire and risings of sea--the firm earth shaken by the rushes of an angry ocean which had now no ebb, but was always on the flow, higher and higher, to the terror and wonder of the beholders on the shore--three years of tempest were consumed. Three more birthdays of little Lucie had been woven by the golden thread into the peaceful tissue of the life of her home.
Who in this family will be drawn to the other city of their blood? The father, the daughter? Can they resist the pull of the loadstone?
Again: those nobles who had seen the coming storm in time, and anticipating plunder or confiscation, had made provident remittances to Tellson's, were always to be heard of there by their needy brethren. To which it must be added that every new-comer from France reported himself and his tidings at Tellson's, almost as a matter of course.
Ain't it always the case that the really rich find refuge via their foreign banks? How many French Aristocrats in England; how many Nazis in Switzerland; how many Americans in offshore island accounts?
The House approached Mr. Lorry, and laying a soiled and unopened letter before him, asked if he had yet discovered any traces of the person to whom it was addressed? The House laid the letter down so close to Darnay that he saw the direction--the more quickly because it was his own right name. The address, turned into English, ran:

"Very pressing. To Monsieur heretofore the Marquis St. Evremonde, of France. Confided to the cares of Messrs. Tellson and Co., Bankers, London, England."
So it is that Charles will go to France...pulled there by Fate.
As he walked to and fro with his resolution made, he considered that neither Lucie nor her father must know of it until he was gone. Lucie should be spared the pain of separation; and her father, always reluctant to turn his thoughts towards the dangerous ground of old, should come to the knowledge of the step, as a step taken, and not in the balance of suspense and doubt.

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