A Tale of Two Cities
How we cite our quotes:
Who gave them out, whence they last came, where they began, through what agency they crookedly quivered and jerked, scores at a time, over the heads of the crowd, like a kind of lightning, no eye in the throng could have told; but, muskets were being distributed--so were cartridges, powder, and ball, bars of iron and wood, knives, axes, pikes, every weapon that distracted ingenuity could discover or devise.
[…] Every pulse and heart in Saint Antoine was on high-fever strain and at high-fever heat. Every living creature there held life as of no account, and was demented with a passionate readiness to sacrifice it. (2.21.30)
The violent preparations for revolution which this passage describes seem strangely self-animated. No one knows who prepares for the upcoming battle – and this anonymity is mimicked in the narrator’s descriptions of the preparations.
The raggedest nightcap, awry on the wretchedest head, had this crooked significance in it: "I know how hard it has grown for me, the wearer of this, to support life in myself; but do you know how easy it has grown for me, the wearer of this, to destroy life in you?" (2.22.2)
The nightcap becomes a metonymic (a single thing representative of a group) voice for the entire populace of starving, underprivileged French citizens. When life becomes of almost no value to its wearer, it’s easy for him to imagine taking the life of others.
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. (2.23.2)
Dickens depicts an almost universal suffering: the world that people inhabit reflects their own misery (and vice versa). Dickens’s sweeping observations make the revolution of the poor an act of epic proportions.