Quotations or quotes are representative lines of a work which highlight the themes, beliefs, and motifs that the writers convey to their audience. The quotes from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens also highlight the themes and beliefs of the author. Some of its representative quotes have been analyzed below.
Quotes in A Tale of Two Cities
“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.”
This is the opening sentence of the novel. It sheds light on two different times going on in two different countries. It describes how human emotions, political situation, and religious fervor have set apart two countries. The timings were of the French Revolution when human rights, public emotions, public despair, and mob violence were the order of the day, while on the other hand there was peace in England.
“Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.”
Book 2, Chapter-5
The anonymous narrator describes the personality and thinking of Sydney Carton. He feels that he cannot do anything to change the world and reasons that even if the sun rises daily. He is disappointed that he can’t find good men, who can do good deeds and feels isolated without any happiness and struggling to help himself.
“Not ‘It’s plain enough, I should think, why he may be. It’s a dreadful remembrance. Besides that, his loss of himself grew out of it. Not knowing how he lost himself, or how he recovered himself, he may never feel certain of not losing himself again. That alone wouldn’t make the subject pleasant, I should think.”
Book 2, Chapter-6
Miss Pross is talking to Mr. Lorry about Dr. Alexander Manette. She is asking him whether he can recall the reason for his incarceration, but he avoids the question due to its horrific details. Perhaps she is right to think that he might lose his own sense of balance if he returns to the same topic of his imprisonment.
“Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend,” observed the Marquis, “will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof,” looking up, “shuts out the sky.”
Book 2, Chapter-7
Marquis speaks to Darnay and tells him that the only way to control people is repression. Repression means to have control over or domination. Marquis compares common people .with dogs and want them to be as slaves. He supports the French aristocratic ways to mistreating peasantry that the people should be whipped like dogs to keep them obedient. In other words, he wants to say that the people are to be treated like animals to make them live in fear of aristocrats.
“Oh, 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!”
Book 2, Chapter 13
Sydney Carton wants to ensure that Lucie and her people are safe and secure. He also wants to make sure that Miss Manette and her family are safe in every way. Though she doesn’t love him back, Sydney loves her and to gain her affection, he tries his best to win her over and protect her.
“It would be easier for the weakest poltroon that lives, to erase himself from existence, than to erase one letter of his name or crimes from the knitted register of Madame Defarge.”
Madam Defarge had devised a method to get the protestors arrested and punished alter. She has a register where she knits the name of such opponents who must be condemned to death after the success of the revolutions. These lines show how cruel ways are adapted to frame and punish people.
“For the love of Heaven, of justice, of generosity, of the honour of your noble name!” was the poor prisoner’s cry with which he strengthened his sinking heart, as he left all that was dear on earth behind him and floated away for the Loadstone Rock.”
Book 2, Chapter-24
Charles Darnay remembers these words of the prisoner, Gabelle. Gabelle spoke these words to reassure himself about the good cause for which he was dying. Darnay tries to reassure himself through his words that as he is leaving for France and entering a dangerous world
“‘We have seen nothing else,’ returned The Vengeance. ‘We have borne this a long time,’ said Madame Defarge, turning her eyes again upon Lucie. ‘Judge you! Is it likely that the trouble of one wife and mother would be much to us now?”
Book 3, Chapter-3
The above conversation is between Madam Defarge and her friend The Vengeance when they meet Lucie. This heartless and cruel talk shows how the rich classes treated peasants and repressed of the poor. In fact, many people like Lucie and her family have suffered so much and were not in a position to help or free themselves from aristocratic families.
“I am not afraid to die, Citizen Evrémonde, but I have done nothing. I am not unwilling to die, if the Republic which is to do so much good to us poor, will profit by my death; but I do not know how that can be, Citizen Evrémonde. Such a poor weak little creature!”
Book 3, Chapter-13
The seamstress is telling Darnay as she thinks he is Evrémonde. She wants to say that the Republic cannot benefit from the death of poor people like her. It will be of no good to the country. She even paints herself as a poor little creature to gain pity on her.
“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.”
Book 3, Chapter-15
Sidney Carton speaks these lines while walking towards the gallows. These lines are his thoughts, perhaps encouraging himself while preparing to sacrifice his life. He feels there is nothing better he had ever done before in his entire life. This idea of self-sacrifice by the end is to reassure himself that his death is not in vain.