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Quotes

Quote #1

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, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. (1.1.1)

Ah, the famous opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities. This passage seems to create a sense of sweeping possibility: the age is everything and nothing all at once. Looked at closely, however, the passage also suggests that this is an age of radical opposites (with almost no in-betweens).

Quote #2

There was a character about Madame Defarge, from which one might have predicated that she did not often make mistakes against herself in any of the reckonings over which she presided. (1.5.20)

Madame Defarge becomes her own form of judge and jury over the course of the novel. Her version of justice, which demands unremitting revenge, could be seen as the downfall of the new Republic as a whole.

Quote #3

Death is Nature's remedy for all things, and why not Legislation's? Accordingly, the forger was put to Death; the utterer of a bad note was put to Death; the unlawful opener of a letter was put to Death; the purloiner of forty shillings and sixpence was put to Death; the holder of a horse at Tellson's door, who made off with it, was put to Death. (2.1.4)

If the French system is bad, the English courts are not much better. Dickens satirizes and critiques a court system which can’t distinguish between the worst offenses and the most petty crimes.

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