A Tale of Two Cities: Top Ten Quotes
1. Excerpt from the opening statement which shows the similarities between the sensibilities of the people of the late 18th century and Dickens' own Victorian readers: "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 . . ." (1)
2. Sydney Carton explaining to Darnay why he drinks to excess: "I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me." (81)
3. The narrator describing the opulent lifestyle of the ignorant French aristocrats whose sense of fashion extends even to the men charged with executing its enemies: "And who among the company at Monseigneur's reception in that seventeen hundred and eightieth year of our Lord, could possibly doubt, that a system rooted in a frizzled hangman, powdered and gold-laced, pumped, and white-silk stockinged, would see the very stars out!" (105)
4. The Marquis St. Evremonde to his nephew after Charles has asserted that their family name is the most despised in France: "Let us hope so . . . Detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low." (119)
5. The murder note left on the Maquis' dead body which morbidly mocks the fast carriage ride that resulted in the death of Gaspard's son: "Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES."
6. Sydney Carton beseeching Lucie Manette to have pity for him and to hold him dear in her heart: "O Miss Manette, when the little picture of a happy father's face looks up in yours, when you see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you!" (149-50)
7. Defarge speaking to the mender of roads about the aristocrats who the peasant has just cheered: "These fools [the aristocrats] know nothing. While they despise your breath, and would stop it forever and ever, in you or in a hundred like you rather than in once of their own horses or dogs, they only know what your breath tells them. Let it deceive them, and then, a little longer; it cannot deceive them too much." (171)
8. From the narrator's description of the moments leading up to the storming of the Bastille: "As a whirlpool of boiling water has a centre point, so, all this raging circled around Defarge's wine-shop, and every human drop in the caldron had a tendency to be sucked towards the vortex where Defarge himself, already begrimed with gunpowder and sweat, issued orders, issued arms, thrust this man back, dragged this man forward, disarmed one to arm another, laboured and strove in the thickest of the uproar." (211)
9. From the closing portion of Doctor Manette's prison manuscript which condemns Darnay as member of the hated Evremonde clan: "If it had pleased GOD to put it in the hard heart of either of the brothers, in all these frightful years, to grant me any tidings of my dearest wife-so much as to let me know by a word whether alive or dead-might have thought that He had not quite abandoned them. But, now I believe that the mark of the red crass is fatal to them, and that they have no part in His mercies . . . I denounce them to Heaven and to earth." (329-30)
10. Sydney Carton's last thoughts before his life is sacrificed to save Charles Darnay: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." (374)
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