Discussion Questions: A Tale of Two Cities

February 16, 2010 at 12:10 am 4 comments

This week we’re taking a look at A Tale of Two Cities, a Dickens novel I’m revisiting and did not fully appreciate the first time around. Click here for background on the LT Classics Challenge, and get your answers ready for the post on Thursday!

Last week, one of the questions focused on why Charles Dickens is found on more reading lists than Wilkie Collins. After reading A Tale of Two Cities, do you have a different answer for this question?

Jerry Cruncher the elder has a rather interesting relationship with his devout wife. What do you think is the real reason behind this dynamic? Is this relationship similar to others within the novel? How so?

The theme of the perfect, innocent child-woman is a prevalent one in Victorian literature. How does Lucie Manette fit this mold? What effect does this stereotyping have on the modern reader’s view of her character, and does she ever transcend this type to become more human?

I hope you’re enjoying this book as much as I am. See you Thursday!

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Weekly Geeks: Romancing the Tome Riddle me this…

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. kberke  |  February 25, 2010 at 9:58 am

    On the Cruncher question: Not too many successful, long-standing marriages in Dickens. Bleak House has one–the Bagnets. I can’t think of others off hand. Certainly not the law stationer’s in BH. Certainly not Quilp’s in Old Curiosity Shop. Spouses in Dickens seem to forever plague each other–how many estranged husbands, for example, come begging?

    So, I thought that Jerry’s marriage, like so many others in Dickens, was one of not-so-peaceful co-existence. What strained the co-existence most was her objection, on religious grounds, to his honest trade–fishing, as I recall. Jerry must have been religious enough to believe that his spouse’s prayers were hurting business.

    Reply
    • 2. KT  |  February 25, 2010 at 10:38 am

      I think Dickens has some hope that some marriages can be successful — we’re meant to be happy for David and Agnes, Sam Weller and his wife, Joe and Biddy, Lucie and Charles, etc. But the happy marriages never seem to appear in the story for long, that’s for sure!

      What was interesting to me about the Crunchers’ marriage is that Mrs. Cruncher never actually objects to Jerry’s ‘honest trade’ — it’s Jerry who decides that her ‘flopping’ is causing his bad luck, and he assumes she objects to his grave-robbing without her ever actually saying it. Combined with Jerry’s religious (or superstitious?) anxiety, I think the reader can infer that Jerry’s accusing Mrs. Cruncher of interfering with his trade is actually an expression of his own guilt.

      Reply
  • 3. kberke  |  February 25, 2010 at 10:50 am

    True, all you say. Am I right in thinking that Lucie and Charles’s marriage was the most long-standing of all the marriages you mentioned? I was thinking, when I wrote my earlier comment, about how many Dickensian marriages withstood the test of time. You’re right: Lucie and Charles seem to be doing fine (although, I wonder about the fitness of Lucie and Charles’s attitude toward Dr. Minette–maybe too much of a good thing?

    I thought of another good long-standing marriage (in addition to the Bagnets of BH): the Boffins of OMF. I’ll bet we can make a longer list of bad marriages, than of good ones.

    Gee this is a nice blog. Fun to be discussing these books in such detail.

    Reply
    • 4. KT  |  February 25, 2010 at 12:47 pm

      Yes, Lucie and Charles have the longest-lasting marriage, though I believe they are separated for most of it. Perhaps it’s not fair to include them, then! You’re right that for Dickens, happy marriages tend to occur at the end of the story, and we don’t really know how the relationships went after the honeymoon period.

      As for Dr. Manette, I agree that his relationship with Lucie and Charles is a bit strange. Probably this is a cultural difference between modern readers and Victorian readers. It seems as far as Dickens is concerned, Lucie’s devotion to her father only emphasizes her admirable ability to be, as Charles says, “everything to everyone.” I can only imagine that there would be some tension in the family, though, after Dr. Manette’s role in Charles’ trial and (indirectly) Sydney’s death!

      Reply

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