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A Tale of Two Cities

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posted on Jun, 11 2013 @ 11:34 PM
Every now & then there's a moment where you realize what you thought you knew isn't actually what you thought it was...

It suddenly occurred to me today that I'd never read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens – don’t know why, the idea just popped into my head.

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." - A lot of people that have probably at least heard that line. I never actually read the book though…somehow I thought it was about Troy and the Trojan horse.

I quickly found out that it is, in fact, NOT Homers Odyssey...
So feeling like an idiot, I started reading it. Of course, I haven’t finished it yet. In fact, I’ve only read the 1st chapter and it's not at all what I thought it was going to be.

The most surprising part though, from what I’ve read so far is that this book actually seems relevant to today - surprisingly relevant...
There's social tension & upheaval & change & revolution & war…and its long as hell (disclaimer).
If you haven't read it then at least try to read chapter 1...whatever you do after that is your choice.

Here’s a Wikipedia link if you want to know what you’re getting into:

Wiki - Tale of Two Cities by Dickens

The thing is that I've generally considered myself a well read person – pretty solid list of books under my belt.
Yeah, I take some shortcuts on typing & texting but I like to think I understand the basic rules of English (excluding my horrible punctuation - bad typing habit I picked up at a job - never cared to change it back)

I'm going to try to finish it - probably going to take months, but hell...all I'd probably be doing otherwise is surfing the net waiting for something crazy to happen.

Actually if you haven’t read it before - you could just Google “Tale of Two Cities Dickens free pdf” & read the first chapter from whatever download you prefer…
(I’m pretty sure it’s ok - let me know if you think otherwise - Surely, there can’t be any copyrights or royalties in effect on this classic, right?)

As a side note - it's been a few years since I was in school. Is it mostly digital now? Do they still buy hardcopy books for English class reading or do they just tell you to go home & read a pdf?

Also I'm curious how many of you have actually finished this book? I'm wondering how common it is.
And honestly, I had a tough time getting through the first few pages - haven’t been that challenged reading in a while. It made me start to wonder how far our education system has actually fallen since this book was written.

Education is a weapon
edit on 12-6-2013 by coldkidc because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 12:02 AM
reply to post by coldkidc

Dickens is absolutely fantastic. His gritty realism and willingness to address the most controversial topics head on are quite astute for someone of his era.

The novel is well worth the time invested in reading it, but also I would suggest checking out his other works such as :

The Adventures of Oliver Twist

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby

David Copperfield

Great Expectations

Bleak House

Just about anything this guy wrote is top quality and very well devised. He not only tells stories it teaches people important life lessons and challenges people to face their own ills.

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 12:13 AM
Oh, yeah. Read it long ago. You know the two cities are London and Paris, right? It's about the French Revolution, it has a great ending. One of Dickens' best and he has a lot of books worth reading.

When you get to the punch line where Sidney Carton gives his all, you'll recognize some more of the text as being something you're familiar with but maybe not from whence it came.

Mom and Dad were real big into making us read this sort of thing, considering that Stephens County wasn't the best school system evar, so Dad popped for a "five foot shelf" to bludgeon us with the classics, some of which we actually read. Once I found Dickens I read a lot of the rest of his stuff on purpose.

A lot of the "five foot shelf" was interesting in a weird sort of way. I did not, however, really enjoy "Mill on the Floss" all that much.

eta: Oh, and I would be betraying Bloody Mary if I didn't encourage you to reread the thing afterwards and try to analyze the characters he uses in the novel. For example, Tale has a lot of classic mythos in there as a framework. Madame DeFarge is a main character, I don't know if you've gotten to her yet, but consider her as a force of nature. The three Norns/Moirai are in the novel, she's one.
edit on 12-6-2013 by Bedlam because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 12:14 AM
Thanks muzzleflash! That's some awesome recommendations.

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 12:28 AM
reply to post by Bedlam

Yeah mythological references abound.

Thanks for bringing up the Norns.
Here is a link for anyone that cares: Norns Wiki

The Norns (Old Norse: norn, plural: nornir) in Norse mythology[1] are female beings who rule the destiny of gods and men, possibly a kind of dísir (see below), and comparable to the Fates in Greek mythology.

Who are "The Fates"?
Moirai Wiki

In Greek mythology, the Moirai (Ancient Greek: Μοῖραι, "apportioners", Latinized as Moerae)—often known in English as the Fates—were the white-robed incarnations of destiny (Roman equivalent: Parcae, euphemistically the "sparing ones", or Fata; also analogous to the Germanic Norns). Their number became fixed at three: Clotho (spinner), Lachesis (allotter) and Atropos (unturnable).

Really cool topics to get into. I could read this stuff all night.

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 12:30 AM
reply to post by coldkidc

Thanks for this. You are correct: Dickens is very hard to read; you have to read every sentence with conscious thought. There are occasional words (some of them admittedly out of currency, though common when I was young) that even I have to look up.

For years I've complained that I never get to just sit down and read for the sheer pleasure of it anymore. But I've downloaded it and just finished the first chapter, as you suggested. When I was a youngster, in the early '60s, this book was required reading. I remember what a dreadful chore it was--but in those days I was incapable of appreciating great writing in quite the way I do now. I'll definitely finish it up, as time allows, in the next few days.

While we're on the subject, I wanted to mention Moby Dick. A few years back a bar-buddy mentioned that he had just picked it up and started reading it again. He said that he had forgotten how funny some passages were. I said: "Funny? I sure as hell don't remember that gruesome tome being funny!" But he was right. You don't realize it when you're reading it against your will; but Melville could actually tickle a rib....

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 12:33 AM
Everyone should pick up Bleak House it is simply epic.

It is held to be one of Dickens' finest novels, containing one of the most vast, complex and engaging arrays of minor characters and sub-plots in his entire canon. The story is told partly by the novel's heroine, Esther Summerson, and partly by a mostly omniscient narrator. Memorable characters include the menacing lawyer Tulkinghorn, the friendly, but depressive John Jarndyce, and the childish and disingenuous Harold Skimpole, as well as the likeable but imprudent Richard Carstone.

At the novel's core is long-running litigation in England's Court of Chancery, Jarndyce v Jarndyce, which has far-reaching consequences for all involved. This case revolves around a testator who apparently made several wills. The litigation, which already has consumed years and between £60,000 and £70,000 in court costs, is emblematic of the failure of Chancery. Dickens' assault on the flaws of the British judiciary system is based in part on his own experiences as a law clerk, and in part on his experiences as a Chancery litigant seeking to enforce his copyright on his earlier books. His harsh characterisation of the slow, arcane Chancery law process gave memorable form to pre-existing widespread frustration with the system. Though Chancery lawyers and judges criticized Dickens's portrait of Chancery as exaggerated and unmerited, his novel helped to spur an ongoing movement that culminated in enactment of the legal reform in the 1870s.

Bleak House was so powerful in it's message that it literally compelled change in the society overall. One man's critique can become another man's crucible.
edit on 12-6-2013 by muzzleflash because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 12:52 AM

Originally posted by Ex_CT2
reply to post by coldkidc

Thanks for this. You are correct: Dickens is very hard to read; you have to read every sentence with conscious thought. There are occasional words (some of them admittedly out of currency, though common when I was young) that even I have to look up.

That's why Dickens is perfect material for teaching English literature, grammar, composition, spelling, definitions, etc.

In order to have a clue what is going on you have to become resourceful and investigate things. You have to reflect on passages and contemplate them in depth to gain real understanding.

My wife has already read a few of the books to the kids, and they seemed to stay pretty interested in it surprisingly enough. We home school so our kids aren't indoctrinated by the school's proclivity to make anything academic horrific and brutal.

I am very proud that I taught my daughter how to read so well that she has already read books like The Hobbit or a novel like "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott, and I think my wife had her read a Emily Bronte work as well. We had her reading this stuff at like age 6-7. She's 8 now and she is currently reading the "Artemis Fowl" series.

The point here is that kids are NOT naturally against reading, it's the school environment that facilitates this feeling of being forced into something unfairly. My daughter has NEVER been against reading, because we taught her from early on that Reading = FUN.

It was that easy. And that simple. We simply always talked about reading positively and cheered and clapped when she made progress in learning how to read.

Obviously due to her being a young child, she has tons of questions about words she cannot pronounce or doesn't know yet, or about similar complex issues that require an adult's helping hand to gain understanding of.

Point of my post : All kids are capable of reading all of these works. They need support and positive benefits from attempting to read these dusty old books. It's hard because we are ignorant and our education system really sucks. But what did JFK say about things being hard?

“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

What "other things" did he refer to? I say he meant everything. Including us pushing these books on our kids (and ourselves too for that matter!!).

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 12:52 AM
OP, you should try to make time to read "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" as well, for your archetypal education.

And it's a slog, but "The Inferno" is the one of the three Divine Comedy books that's worth reading, and it's a doozy. You will have to get a good reference on Italian history to make sense of parts of it, it's a commentary on Italian government as much as anything else, but it's also rife with archetypes you've seen used in literature and never realized.

Oh, and as a conspiracy theme, Inferno was apparently also a secret guide for memory training - something like a Mentat. That's an almost Dan Brownish thing I found to be sort of amusing. It's a loci memory system like Hexagram, Grand or Tree of Life, with a novel hung around it.

If you make it through Inferno, you'll suddenly have a grasp on the poetry of Frost, for example, and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" will take on a new, dark meaning.

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 12:53 AM

Originally posted by muzzleflash
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

What "other things" did he refer to? I say he meant everything. Including us pushing these books on our kids (and ourselves too for that matter!!).

Interstellar flight. But I digress.

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 01:04 AM
reply to post by Bedlam

The memory training aspect sounds really fascinating - I'll add Inferno to my list then...thanks!

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 01:12 AM
reply to post by Bedlam

You brought up Dante which is very compelling reading IMHO, and since we are talking about people from Florence than I should also bring up Machiavelli another excellent author that can teach many things.

His works are not generally fiction per se but since they present so many pertinent pieces of information I have to bring it up.

Discourses on Livy
The Prince
The Art of War (not by Sun Tzu, although his Art is also a Must read).

I mentioned Machiavelli and he was believed to have been well read on Xenophon, a very interesting source of Greek history.
Sorry I am getting way off track here though, as you can see I jump around a lot.

One of the works that has recently inspired me to achieve greater things, is the timeless work called "The Book of Five Rings", written by Miyamoto Musashi around 1640-50.

This book is packed with hardened insights that have proven to work in practice and can teach anyone a ton of things about themselves and about the world.

Know the smallest things and the biggest things, the shallowest things and the deepest things. As if it were a straight road mapped out on the ground ... These things cannot be explained in detail. From one thing, know ten thousand things. When you attain the Way of strategy there will not be one thing you cannot see. You must study hard.

In strategy your spiritual bearing must not be any different from normal. Both in fighting and in everyday life you should be determined though calm.

"By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist."

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 01:13 AM
reply to post by muzzleflash

You could serve as a model to a lot of crappy and uncaring parents.

I was a prolific reader as a kid--unfortunately (or not!) it was predominantly SciFi. The Old Man thought I was an effete sissy. (He was barely able to read more than his own name). My mom thought it was little better than comic books--but at least I was reading, so she accepted and ... sort of ... encouraged it.

But I skipped most of the classics until I was much older. I congratulate you and your wife and am thrilled for your daughter. Good luck and thanks for fighting the "good fight"....

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 01:17 AM
reply to post by muzzleflash

Oh wow - yeah - I saved that one just now

Googled it & they were talking about kendo & the way of the Samurai - can't believe I didn't already know about this book - thanks!

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 01:19 AM

Originally posted by coldkidc
reply to post by Bedlam

The memory training aspect sounds really fascinating - I'll add Inferno to my list then...thanks!

I don't know if there's a book that teaches loci systems anymore. At one time, it was a sort of trade secret for Greek orators, an almost occult technique.

The 100,000 foot view is that you pick a place you know - your home for example. You can close your eyes and go through this place in your mind. You're very familiar with it. So, in your mind you create this sort of fantasy world with your home as the framework. In your imaginary home, you leave objects and notes in various places, to cue your memory. There are a number of tricks to get this to stick, more than would fit here. But you can remember things for years that way. If you don't refresh the rooms occasionally it will eventually fade, but I've still got 'memory theaters' with old Army notes in that I can tell you from 20 years ago. I don't remember why I needed that info but the notes are still there. Since I don't use those locations anymore I don't clear them out.

The structure of the Inferno is a memory theatre. There are others, hexagram uses a system that has something like 2000 locations per structure, the tree of life is a memory system and so on. A Greek orator trained in memory theatre technique could recite and memorize speeches so they could deliver them without notes, or "record" someone else's speeches without shorthand.

After about 1600 they switched to the peg system but I find loci systems work for me.

posted on Jun, 12 2013 @ 01:27 AM
reply to post by Bedlam

Yeah the "peg system" is the one commonly passed around nowadays.

Remember that Trudeau guy who sold "Mega Memory"? Haha.
It was a rip off, but Trudeau made mega bucks $$$$. Smart guy, bit of a shyster though.
edit on 12-6-2013 by muzzleflash because: (no reason given)

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