I just re-read Tale of Two Cities (for probably the tenth time since I used to teach it to high school seniors.) It is still a masterpiece one hundred and fifty or so years in, and, despite its setting in the late 1700s, the blind brutality created by anger and hate of one group of people for another could just as easily be the subject of a modern novel. Oh, if Charles Dickens were only here to tell it.
Love is evident in Tale of Two Cities as Lucie Manette, the golden thread, ties together disparate friends and family by her almost angelic nature. Yet, if not for the quick thinking of Sydney Carton, even the sweet Lucie and her innocent daughter and the great favorite of the Revolution, Dr. Manette, would have joined the poor and patriotic seamstress at the foot of La Guillotine. Why? Is it because some people like to kill? Madame Defarge certainly fits that scenario. Is it because in a cause, which begins for rational purposes, reason can be overwhelmed by fervor gone terribly awry? That describes the situation in 1792 France. Or is it because the poor have no other avenue? The peasants in Paris and the countryside under the rule of men like Marquis Evremonde came to believe that to be true.
Today France is of course restored to normalcy and has been for many generations. Even in Dickens’ Victorian England he was looking back at the past in France and perhaps hinting, not so subtly, that a lot of the same disparity that caused that vindictive revolt in France was alive in his England, where the poor still suffered in debtors prisons, in workhouses and on the streets of London.
Today may be pleasant in France, and from my personal observations, might even be the most pleasant of anywhere on the globe. However, the French Revolution seems to be revisiting in new locales in the Twenty-first Century. New dissatisfaction prevails. People still hate others. Some are impoverished; others are greedy. Many manipulate for personal and political gain. Hate spews against those who are different. Religions are twisted to facilitate malice.
The question now appears to be “Will man’s place on the planet Earth last the fifty or so years for a new Dickens to describe the horrors of our current time?”