A Tale of Two Cities
Society and Class Quotes Page 1
How we cite our quotes:
Thus did the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five conduct their Greatnesses, and myriads of small creatures--the creatures of this chronicle among the rest--along the roads that lay before them. (1.1.6)
Dickens is famous for his ability to create an entire world within his novels. This passage shows the sorts of telescoping of perspective (first showing the masses of people, then the small ones on which the novel will turn) that allow him to concentrate on both individual lives and the big picture.
Samples of a people that had undergone a terrible grinding and regrinding in the mill, and certainly not in the fabulous mill which ground old people young, shivered at every corner, passed in and out at every doorway, looked from every window, fluttered in every vestige of a garment that the wind shook. The mill which had worked them down, was the mill that grinds young people old [ ...] (1.5.6)
Society becomes an impersonal, mechanized force which the poor of France cannot control. They’re no longer citizens of the nation: they’re grist for the mill which churns up the poor.
Yes. It took four men, all four ablaze with gorgeous decoration, and the Chief of them unable to exist with fewer than two gold watches in his pocket, emulative of the noble and chaste fashion set by Monseigneur, to conduct the happy chocolate to Monseigneur's lips. (2.7.2)
The absolute decadence of the aristocracy prior to the revolution is satirized here. Note how we’re never given Monseigneur’s name. It’s almost as if he’s not a person at all but a placeholder for the entire aristocratic class.