Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Well-Spoken Wednesday #1

I have actually been keeping up with my blog challenges!  And God has given me fantastic ideas and sometimes taken me a different direction than I first thought He would.

Today is about things that are well-said or well-written.  It will give me a chance to share writings and sayings that have truly impacted me.

And today's well-spoken feature is Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities.  I first read this in high school.  I can't remember if I was a freshman or a sophomore, but I think I was a sophomore.  I had read some Charles Dickens books, but they were usually long and often quite depressing.  He was a fantastic writing, and he wrote about social issues for sure.  He is probably best known for his book A Christmas Carol.  So many versions have been made of this, and the story never seems to get old, does it?  Why even It's a Wonderful Life is probably loosely based on it.  It's always about seeing our lives through different eyes and seeing how our lives have impacted others and how they will continue to do so. But I digress.

A Tale of Two Cities begins with that famous literary line "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  And it continues with several more paradoxical statements.  I didn't know that when I began.  I liked the fact that it was half the size of most of Charles Dickens novels.  It was not assigned--I read it because I wanted  to.

Now I tend to say that when you read a classic--especially the greats--it takes a good 50 pages to get into it.  No exception here.  I struggled through the first 50 pages.  But suddenly I got interested in Lucie Manette and her father who had just been released from the Bastille after being wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years.  The story of reclaiming her father and redeeming those years he lost is quite a story that captures the imagination.  Lucie Manette is not the strongest character in the world, but it is clear she loves her father, and it is powerful enough to bring her father back to his senses.

Then my attention was riveted on Sydney Carton.  He is that character who just wastes his life on bad living when he could have  done something wonderful with him life.  But he is much more alluring than Charles Darnay, little Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes.  Or so we think.  And for whom does Lucie fall?  Charles Darnay, of course, like any good girl would.  Go for the guy who is safe and boring instead of exciting and flamboyant.  But in spite of it all, Sydney Carton makes a promise to Lucie.  He tells her that he would do anything for her or for someone she loves.  And so ends the first part of the novel.

The second part of the novel deals with the French Revolution.  This party of history always fascinates us.  It is where the everyone else discovers what we already knew--Charles Darnay is an aristocrat.  If he ever sets foot in France, he will be guillotined for certain.  His real name is Evremonde. He renounced the family long ago because of their horrid treatment of the poor people of France.

As you may have guessed (caution, there are spoilers from this point on), Charles Darnay is lured back to France.  He is imprisoned but then freed thanks to Lucie's father.  Ironically, it is a writing of Lucie's father that results in Darnay being imprisoned and sentenced to death.  I'll not explain myself on that point in case anyone decides to read this book.

Sydney Carton steps in at this  moment in an unbelievable yet somewhat predictable way.  He takes Darnay's place at the guillotine, making good on his promise to Lucie.  He becomes a "type" of Christ.  That is a literary device--I'm not being blasphemous.  Literary scholars of today like to downplay Biblical references, but on is not truly able to understand classical literature without a thorough grasp of the Bible and Greek mythology.  I never struggled with the Bible, but I was not as well-versed in Greek mythology.  I think I learned just enough to get by.

In addition to the book, I highly recommend the 1991 Masterpiece Theatre version of the book.  It is a very faithful adaptation.  John Mills stars in it, and the acting is absolutely superb.  I don't watch it unless I feel like having a crying party.  I usually cry for the last 5 minutes of the movie.  Actually, I weep!

I did reread the book in more recent times.  I planned on writing a musical adaptation of it, but I ran out of time.  I know I had the opening song written at one time,  but I just don't have the time any more.  Nor the inclination.

Now, why would I bring this particular book to your attention?  I think there are some fantastic principles to it.  If you were asked today to lay down your life for your friend, would you do it?  Be honest?  What about the husband or wife of your former flame?  Would you die for that brother you always thought got special treatment or your little sister who was a spoiled brat?  In Scripture it talks about no one has great love for someone than if he/she dies for his/her friend.  It also talks about people not being willing to die for evil people but for good people, a person might be willing to die.  And yet Christ died for us while we were yet sinners.  Sydney Carton never liked Charles Darnaybelieveth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live."  He also says, "It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before."  Interesting, isn't it?

So if you are up  for a classic read that will really get you thinking and take you on somewhat of an emotional rollercoaster, give it a read.


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