This week we are going to study one of my favorite books ever! I am so excited. It will be a busy week for you. You have an essay due Friday. Do not procrastinate.
I also, need you to finish reading “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift. Please answer the questions at the bottom of this page and turn them in on Friday.
I am very concerned about the one group doing a video project. I learned on Friday that you have not been able to meet. I am afraid that you are underestimating the time it takes to complete such a project. I would strongly urge you to select another project option. I just have a hard time seeing this work out well for you (grade wise). If you choose to continue with your plans, remember that I want to hear Shakespeare’s language, and it needs to be well done. [Project Update]
Late Policy–I want to ask each of you to leave this sentence in the comment section below. “I [insert your name here], do solemnly swear, to not act like Mrs. Brandi is mean, when she follows the late work policy. She is not being a harsh Christian, unsympathetic, or vindictive. If I turn in late work, it is because I chose to poorly manage my time. It is my fault, not hers.” LOL. I know that most of you turn in your work on time. But I am asking you to do this to help me not feel guilty when I lovingly hold you accountable.
So remember the late policy–If your essay is late, I deduct a letter grade for each week it is late. If your homework is late (including the project), it is half credit 😦
This semester, I am going to be strict with the late policy, because you have all had plenty of time to adjust to the workload. And at this time of year, it is tempting to get a little lax with school.
Journal-Beheading is a topic of this story. It is rather gruesome, and Dickens uses that reality to help us connect with history. I want you to start by really thinking about how terrible that form of death would be. We know that the Apostle Paul died by beheading. John the Baptist had his head cut off. The Bible says that in the last days, many Christians will die because of their faith. “And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God.” Revelation 20:4. The French Revolution centered around an object of destruction called the guillotine. Large crowds would come out and even set up chairs to watch these executions as if it was a show at Disneyland. I want you to consider this terror. What do you think it must have been like to endure the anticipation of death from beheading? What thoughts would go through your head? How would you prepare yourself? How would you calm your nerves enough to endure this? I want you to think this out deeply, not because I am morbid, but because I want you to connect with this story, and with one character in particular.
This book was written later, during the Victorian period, but i figured we should study it closer to the French Revolution.
I REALLY wish we could read it. In fact, last week I figured out how I could force you to plow through it in 3 weeks. But honestly, I don’t want to kill it for you. You are already tired from plowing through Hamlet. And it is that time of year, that we start to drag a little bit.
So this is the plan. We are going to watch the movie and read excerpts from the book.
This is one of the BEST NOVELS EVER WRITTEN.
This is certainly the BEST FIRST PAGE and the BEST LAST PAGE of any novel ever written.
So I want you to read the first page right now . . .
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—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled for ever.
Okay so those first two paragraphs give me goosebumps. Wow . . . *take deep breath*
SUMMARY–What I need you to do is to pay attention to what these two paragraphs mean. Write each sentence in your own words (which will be less perfect than Dickens’ words). You will need to define words like incredulity and superlative. Enjoy.
So, we have in the first paragraph this beautifully phrased dichotomy between the extreme characteristics of this time period.
And in the second paragraph he has set up the context of the King and Queen of England and the King and Queen of France. This book isn’t just about the struggles between England and France though, it is also about the struggles of the poor in France rising up to destroy their own aristocracy–the birth pangs of the French Revolution. The excitement of the Bastille being stormed, but also the terror of the Guillotine.
Golly gee, this book is soooo good. I love how all the mysterious pieces come together at just the perfect time. There is suspense, surprise, symbolism.
When the wine spills in the streets and the poor people drink it off the cobblestones, staining their faces red, and someone uses the wine to write the word “Blood” on Defarge’s wall—symbolic of the revolution
When Madame Defarge just sits watching, and knitting . . . and you don’t find out until later what she is doing.
When the Marquis runs over that boy and throws the coin to the father, as if he just ran over a dog in the street. Not caring, and Madame Defarge watches, knitting, knowing what she is planning.
Here is the scene in the book:
He was a man of about sixty, handsomely dressed, haughty in manner, and with a face like a fine mask. A face of a transparent paleness; every feature in it clearly defined; one set expression on it. The nose, beautifully formed otherwise, was very slightly pinched at the top of each nostril. In those two compressions, or dints, the only little change that the face ever showed, resided. They persisted in changing colour sometimes, and they would be occasionally dilated and contracted by something like a faint pulsation; then, they gave a look of treachery, and cruelty, to the whole countenance. Examined with attention, its capacity of helping such a look was to be found in the line of the mouth, and the lines of the orbits of the eyes, being much too horizontal and thin; still, in the effect of the face made, it was a handsome face, and a remarkable one.
Its owner went downstairs into the courtyard, got into his carriage, and drove away. Not many people had talked with him at the reception; he had stood in a little space apart, and Monseigneur might have been warmer in his manner. It appeared, under the circumstances, rather agreeable to him to see the common people dispersed before his horses, and often barely escaping from being run down. His man drove as if he were charging an enemy, and the furious recklessness of the man brought no check into the face, or to the lips, of the master. The complaint had sometimes made itself audible, even in that deaf city and dumb age, that, in the narrow streets without footways, the fierce patrician custom of hard driving endangered and maimed the mere vulgar in a barbarous manner. But, few cared enough for that to think of it a second time, and, in this matter, as in all others, the common wretches were left to get out of their difficulties as they could.
With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage dashed through streets and swept round corners, with women screaming before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of its way. At last, swooping at a street corner by a fountain, one of its wheels came to a sickening little jolt, and there was a loud cry from a number of voices, and the horses reared and plunged.
But for the latter inconvenience, the carriage probably would not have stopped; carriages were often known to drive on, and leave their wounded behind, and why not? But the frightened valet had got down in a hurry, and there were twenty hands at the horses’ bridles.
‘What has gone wrong?’ said Monsieur, calmly looking out.
A tall man in a nightcap had caught up a bundle from among the feet of the horses, and had laid it on the basement of the fountain, and was down in the mud and wet, howling over it like a wild animal.
‘Pardon, Monsieur the Marquis!’ said a ragged and submissive man, ‘it is a child.’
‘Why does he make that abominable noise? Is it his child?’
‘Excuse me, Monsieur the Marquis—it is a pity—yes.’
The fountain was a little removed; for the street opened, where it was, into a space some ten or twelve yards square. As the tall man suddenly got up from the ground, and came running at the carriage, Monsieur the Marquis clapped his hand for an instant on his sword-hilt.
‘Killed!’ shrieked the man, in wild desperation, extending both arms at their length above his head, and staring at him. ‘Dead!’
The people closed round, and looked at Monsieur the Marquis. There was nothing revealed by the many eyes that looked at him but watchfulness and eagerness; there was no visible menacing or anger. Neither did the people say anything; after the first cry, they had been silent, and they remained so. The voice of the submissive man who had spoken, was flat and tame in its extreme submission. Monsieur the Marquis ran his eyes over them all, as if they had been mere rats come out of their holes.
He took out his purse. ‘It is extraordinary to me,’ said he, ‘that you people cannot take care of yourselves and your children. One or the other of you is for ever in the, way. How do I know what injury you have done my horses. See! Give him that.’
He threw out a gold coin for the valet to pick up, and all the heads craned forward that all the eyes might look down at it as it fell. The tall man called out again with a most unearthly cry, ‘Dead!’
He was arrested by the quick arrival of another man, for whom the rest made way. On seeing him, the miserable creature fell upon his shoulder, sobbing and crying, and pointing to the fountain, where some women were stooping over the motionless bundle, and moving gently about it. They were as silent, however, as the men.
‘I know all, I know all,’ said the last comer. ‘Be a brave man, my Gaspard! It is better for the poor little plaything to die so, than to live. It has died in a moment without pain. Could it have lived an hour as happily?’
‘You are a philosopher, you there,’ said the, Marquis, smiling. ‘How do they call you?’
‘They call me Defarge.’
‘Of what trade?’
‘Monsieur the Marquis, vendor of wine.’
‘Pick up that, philosopher and vendor of wine,’ said the Marquis, throwing him another gold coin, ‘and spend it as you will. The horses there; are they right?’
Without deigning to look at the assemblage a second time, Monsieur the Marquis leaned back in his seat, and was just being driven away with the air of a gentleman who had accidentally broke some common thing, and had paid for it, and could afford to pay for it; when his ease was suddenly disturbed by a coin flying into his carriage, and ringing on its floor.
‘Hold!’ said Monsieur the Marquis. ‘Hold the horses! Who threw that?’
He looked to the spot where Defarge the vendor of wine had stood, a moment before; but the wretched father was grovelling on his face on the pavement in that spot, and the figure that stood beside him was the figure of a dark stout woman, knitting.
‘You dogs!’ said the Marquis, but smoothly, and with an unchanged front, except as to the spots on his nose: ‘I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth. If I knew which rascal threw at the carriage, and if that brigand were sufficiently near it, he should be crushed under the wheels.’
So cowed was their condition, and so long and hard their experience of what such a man could do to them, within the law and beyond it, that not a voice, or a hand, or even an eye was raised. Among the men, not one. But the woman who stood knitting looked up steadily, and looked the Marquis in the face. It was not for his dignity to notice it; his contemptuous eyes passed over her, and over all the other rats; and he leaned back in his seat again, and gave the word ‘Go on!’
He was driven on, and other carriages came whirling by in quick succession; the Minister, the State-Projector, the Farmer-General, the Doctor, the Lawyer, the Ecclesiastic, the Grand Opera, the Comedy, the whole Fancy Ball in a bright continuous flow, came whirling by. The rats had crept out of their holes to look on, and they remained looking on for hours; soldiers and police often passing between them and the spectacle, and making a barrier behind which they slunk, and through which they peeped. The father had long ago taken up his bundle and bidden himself away with it, when the women who had tended the bundle while it lay on the base of the fountain, sat there watching the running of the water and the rolling of the Fancy Ball—when the one woman who had stood conspicuous, knitting, still knitted on with the steadfastness of Fate. The water of the fountain ran, the swift river ran, the day ran into evening, so much life in the city ran into death according to rule, time and tide waited for no man, the rats were sleeping close together in their dark holes again, the Fancy Ball was lighted up at supper, all things ran their course. (pages 190-196)
Sometimes you read things in this book and get so caught up in the revolutionary cause, but then when it goes too far and it is like being on an airplane falling out of the sky. It gets totally out of control.
You have “La Guillotine” which personifies this instrument of death as some giant monster. My mind sees it towering over me. Slicing mercilessly. Filling the streets with blood. It is terrifying.
Oh, and then the end . . .
and you already know what happens, Carton dies. But you haven’t read it. You have to read it.
The best conclusion of any book ever written.
I am actually going to have you read the whole last chapter. I will make the last page bold. This chapter begins with a picture of six tumbrils, or open carts carrying off a fresh morning crop of people to the guillotine. It contains a lot of figurative language, describing the guillotine as just another “monster” that has risen, in a transformed fashion, after the defeat of the last monster. Notice the language. Notice the metaphorical comparisons. This is the best stuff you guys. This isn’t just steak from Sizzler; this is prime rib from Flemmings. This is Ruth Chris writing. mmm mmm MMM!!!
I say, “Welcome to Dickens, let me show you to your table . . .”
The Footsteps Die Out For Ever
Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow
and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day’s wine to La
Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters
imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in
the one realisation, Guillotine. And yet there is not in
France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a
leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to
maturity under conditions more certain than those that
have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape
once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself
into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of
rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will
surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.
Six tumbrils roll along the streets. Change these back
again to what they were, thou powerful enchanter, Time,
and they shall be seen to be the carriages of absolute
monarchs, the equipages of feudal nobles, the toilettes of
flaring Jezebels, the churches that are not my father’s
house but dens of thieves, the huts of millions of starving
peasants! No; the great magician who majestically works
out the appointed order of the Creator, never reverses his
transformations. ‘If thou be changed into this shape by the
will of God,’ say the seers to the enchanted, in the wise
Arabian stories, ‘then remain so! But, if thou wear this
form through mere passing conjuration, then resume thy
former aspect!’ Changeless and hopeless, the tumbrils roll
As the sombre wheels of the six carts go round, they
seem to plough up a long crooked furrow among the
populace in the streets. Ridges of faces are thrown to this
side and to that, and the ploughs go steadily onward. So
used are the regular inhabitants of the houses to the
spectacle, that in many windows there are no people, and
in some the occupation of the hands is not so much as
suspended, while the eyes survey the faces in the tumbrils.
Here and there, the inmate has visitors to see the sight;
then he points his finger, with something of the
complacency of a curator or authorised exponent, to this
cart and to this, and seems to tell who sat here yesterday,
and who there the day before.
Of the riders in the tumbrils, some observe these
things, and all things on their last roadside, with an
impassive stare; others, with a lingering interest in the
ways of life and men. Some, seated with drooping heads,
are sunk in silent despair; again, there are some so heedful
of their looks that they cast upon the multitude such
glances as they have seen in theatres, and in pictures.
Several close their eyes, and think, or try to get their
straying thoughts together. Only one, and he a miserable
creature, of a crazed aspect, is so shattered and made drunk
by horror, that he sings, and tries to dance. Not one of the
whole number appeals by look or gesture, to the pity of
There is a guard of sundry horsemen riding abreast of
the tumbrils, and faces are often turned up to some of
them, and they are asked some question. It would seem to
be always the same question, for, it is always followed by a
press of people towards the third cart. The horsemen
abreast of that cart, frequently point out one man in it
with their swords. The leading curiosity is, to know which
is he; he stands at the back of the tumbril with his head
bent down, to converse with a mere girl who sits on the
side of the cart, and holds his hand. He has no curiosity or
care for the scene about him, and always speaks to the girl.
Here and there in the long street of St. Honore, cries are
raised against him. If they move him at all, it is only to a
quiet smile, as he shakes his hair a little more loosely about
his face. He cannot easily touch his face, his arms being
On the steps of a church, awaiting the coming-up of
the tumbrils, stands the Spy and prison-sheep. He looks
into the first of them: not there. He looks into the second:
not there. He already asks himself, ‘Has he sacrificed me?’
when his face clears, as he looks into the third.
‘Which is Evremonde?’ says a man behind him.
‘That. At the back there.’
‘With his hand in the girl’s?’
The man cries, ‘Down, Evremonde! To the Guillotine
all aristocrats! Down, Evremonde!’
‘Hush, hush!’ the Spy entreats him, timidly.
‘And why not, citizen?’
‘He is going to pay the forfeit: it will be paid in five
minutes more. Let him be at peace.’
But the man continuing to exclaim, ‘Down,
Evremonde!’ the face of Evremonde is for a moment
turned towards him. Evremonde then sees the Spy, and
looks attentively at him, and goes his way.
The clocks are on the stroke of three, and the furrow
ploughed among the populace is turning round, to come
on into the place of execution, and end. The ridges
thrown to this side and to that, now crumble in and close
behind the last plough as it passes on, for all are following
to the Guillotine. In front of it, seated in chairs, as in a
garden of public diversion, are a number of women, busily
knitting. On one of the fore-most chairs, stands The
Vengeance, looking about for her friend.
‘Therese!’ she cries, in her shrill tones. ‘Who has seen
her? Therese Defarge!’
‘She never missed before,’ says a knitting-woman of the
‘No; nor will she miss now,’ cries The Vengeance,
‘Louder,’ the woman recommends.
Ay! Louder, Vengeance, much louder, and still she will
scarcely hear thee. Louder yet, Vengeance, with a little
oath or so added, and yet it will hardly bring her. Send
other women up and down to seek her, lingering
somewhere; and yet, although the messengers have done
dread deeds, it is questionable whether of their own wills
they will go far enough to find her!
‘Bad Fortune!’ cries The Vengeance, stamping her foot
in the chair, ‘and here are the tumbrils! And Evremonde
will be despatched in a wink, and she not here! See her
knitting in my hand, and her empty chair ready for her. I
cry with vexation and disappointment!’
As The Vengeance descends from her elevation to do
it, the tumbrils begin to discharge their loads. The
ministers of Sainte Guillotine are robed and ready.
Crash!—A head is held up, and the knitting- women who
scarcely lifted their eyes to look at it a moment ago when
it could think and speak, count One.
The second tumbril empties and moves on; the third
comes up. Crash! —And the knitting-women, never
faltering or pausing in their Work, count Two.
The supposed Evremonde descends, and the seamstress
is lifted out next after him. He has not relinquished her
patient hand in getting out, but still holds it as he
promised. He gently places her with her back to the
crashing engine that constantly whirrs up and falls, and she
looks into his face and thanks him.
‘But for you, dear stranger, I should not be so
composed, for I am naturally a poor little thing, faint of
heart; nor should I have been able to raise my thoughts to
Him who was put to death, that we might have hope and
comfort here to-day. I think you were sent to me by
‘Or you to me,’ says Sydney Carton. ‘Keep your eyes
upon me, dear child, and mind no other object.’
‘I mind nothing while I hold your hand. I shall mind
nothing when I let it go, if they are rapid.’
‘They will be rapid. Fear not!’
The two stand in the fast-thinning throng of victims,
but they speak as if they were alone. Eye to eye, voice to
voice, hand to hand, heart to heart, these two children of
the Universal Mother, else so wide apart and differing,
have come together on the dark highway, to repair home
together, and to rest in her bosom.
‘Brave and generous friend, will you let me ask you
one last question? I am very ignorant, and it troubles me—
just a little.’
‘Tell me what it is.’
‘I have a cousin, an only relative and an orphan, like
myself, whom I love very dearly. She is five years younger
than I, and she lives in a farmer’s house in the south
country. Poverty parted us, and she knows nothing of my
fate—for I cannot write—and if I could, how should I tell
her! It is better as it is.’
‘Yes, yes: better as it is.’
‘What I have been thinking as we came along, and
what I am still thinking now, as I look into your kind
strong face which gives me so much support, is this:—If
the Republic really does good to the poor, and they come
to be less hungry, and in all ways to suffer less, she may
live a long time: she may even live to be old.’
‘What then, my gentle sister?’
‘Do you think:’ the uncomplaining eyes in which there
is so much endurance, fill with tears, and the lips part a
little more and tremble: ‘that it will seem long to me,
while I wait for her in the better land where I trust both
you and I will be mercifully sheltered?’
‘It cannot be, my child; there is no Time there, and no
‘You comfort me so much! I am so ignorant. Am I to
kiss you now? Is the moment come?’
She kisses his lips; he kisses hers; they solemnly bless
each other. The spare hand does not tremble as he releases
it; nothing worse than a sweet, bright constancy is in the
patient face. She goes next before him—is gone; the
knitting-women count Twenty-Two.
‘I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord: he
that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he
live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never
The murmuring of many voices, the upturning of
many faces, the pressing on of many footsteps in the
outskirts of the crowd, so that it swells forward in a mass,
like one great heave of water, all flashes away. TwentyThree.
They said of him, about the city that night, that it was
the peacefullest man’s face ever beheld there. Many added
that he looked sublime and prophetic.
One of the most remarkable sufferers by the same
axe—a woman-had asked at the foot of the same scaffold,
not long before, to be allowed to write down the thoughts
that were inspiring her. If he had given any utterance to
his, and they were prophetic, they would have been these:
‘I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the
Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who
have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this
retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its
present use. I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people
rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly
free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to
come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time
of which this is the natural birth, gradually making
expiation for itself and wearing out.
‘I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful,
useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I
shall see no more. I see Her with a child upon her bosom,
who bears my name. I see her father, aged and bent, but
otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing
office, and at peace. I see the good old man, so long their
friend, in ten years’ time enriching them with all he has,
and passing tranquilly to his reward.
‘I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the
hearts of their descendants, generations hence. I see her, an
old woman, weeping for me on the anniversary of this
day. I see her and her husband, their course done, lying
side by side in their last earthly bed, and I know that each
was not more honoured and held sacred in the other’s
soul, than I was in the souls of both.
‘I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore
my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life
which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that
my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see
the blots I threw upon it, faded away. I see him, fore-most
of just judges and honoured men, bringing a boy of my
name, with a forehead that I know and golden hair, to this
place— then fair to look upon, with not a trace of this
day’s disfigurement —and I hear him tell the child my
story, with a tender and a faltering voice.
‘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
Dude, I am crying. Just re-reading it.
‘I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord: he
that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he
live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.’
–Sydney Carton quoting this ❤
And what does Jesus say, that there is no greater love than to lay your life down for a friend.
This book is about REDEMPTION, in a world that blindly and excessively calls for VENGEANCE.
Go ahead and get some popcorn and a soda pop, and watch the movie.
You may or may not have a pop quiz on the reading material and movie this Friday.
(Part 1 of 11)
Please watch all 11 parts
Questions from the last chapter of A Tale of Two Cities
- Why does it say, “six tumbrils carry today’s wine to the guillotine”? What symbolism do we see in the word wine?
- Dickens uses figurative language powerfully. Why does he compare the wheels of the tumbrils to ploughs that are digging into the populace?
- How does Sydney Carton comfort the young girl who died before him?
- What verse does he quote to himself for his own comfort?
- The term dynamic character is used in literature to describe a character that changes, grows, or develops throughout the story. It is in contrast to a static character, who stays the same. How does Sydney Carton change during this story?
I need these 5 questions and your summary of the first two paragraphs of the book handwritten. Also, your essays are due Friday. [Project Update]
Questions from “A Modest Proposal” by Jonathan Swift
- Do you think Swift goes too far in his essay? Why or why not?
- Do you think sometimes we have to go too far to get people to pay attention?
- Why does he call his proposal modest?
- Why does he think the food he proposes is “very proper for landlords”?
- Why is the narrator unconcerned about old people suffering from sickness, poverty and neglect?
- About midway through this pamphlet, the narrator lists six advantages to his proposal. What are those six advantages?
- Describe the one objection that the narrator anticipates to his proposal.
- How would you state the purpose of this essay? Whom or what is Swift trying to reform?
- Describe the narrators real meaning when he asserts that England will not mind if Ireland kills and eats its babies. What element of satire is evident here?
- Near the end of the pamphlet, the speaker lists reasonable solutions to help lessen the present distress in Ireland. Some of these options are very constructive. Why, then, does he brush these ideas of reform are aside?