In response to Robert Alter’s literary criticism of A Tale of Two Cities, I ultimately agree to his claims for the most part. He covers many insightful ideals, especially his connection with darkness and light throughout the novel. Alter provides substantial evidence from different literary aspects as seen through his correlating statements to darkness and light being a prevalent element throughout the novel. Symbolically, he demonstrates evidence through utilizing figures to represent the concept of light versus darkness.
For example, he compares France’s savagery to England’s composed state, aristocratic oppression to the innocence of French peasants, and Madame Defarge’s vengeful ambitions to Miss Pross’s proper image as a morally-compassed woman. Alter as well provides effective support through selection of detail, as seen in his textual evidence, demonstrating the ideal of light and darkness conflicting with one another in the scene connecting Doctor Manette’s luminous liberation to the Marquis’s sense of the disturbance of darkness. Alter’s staggering connections provide substantial transparency in the role of darkness and light to the work as a whole.
I especially appreciate his ambiguous interpretation of light and darkness and how itself supports a prominent thematic message of the novel, which is that darkness consumes light and reproduces more darkness. He successfully supports his claim discussing the change of heart of the french citizens, causing them to become violent revolutionaries. Alter as well provides an unconventional and extraordinary insight on the role of religion and how it is a prevalent element throughout the novel. He asserts the idea of the four revolutionary arsonists correlating to the biblical tale of he Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This is a very practical statement as the tale of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse correlates to the happenings of the chaotic French Revolution, but just at a smaller scale. As Dickens describes the scenery of the destruction, he conveys a sense of an apocalyptic setting, resembling the devastation in the biblical tale of the Four Horsemen. I as well admire Alter’s unconventional proposal regarding the effect of anti-Christianity amongst French revolutionaries. He provides intuitive correlations between many symbolic occurrences in the novel and Christianity.
Alter demonstrates the immense similarities between the cross and the guillotine, deeming the guillotine the iconic symbol for the olutionaries’ anti-Christian religion. He provides substantial support using Sydney Carton’s death for his friends on the guillotine, to demonstrate the correlation to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion on the cross dying for humanity. Alter as well incorporates Carton’s quote at the end to effectively support his claim, where Carton at the brink of death states, “Tam the resurrection and the life (99),” establishing a sense of divinity for himself, similar to Jesus Christ.
Despite Alter posing many insightful points, I however do not agree on his accusation, claiming that the characters of the novel are merely a secondary components to the novel, while the actual occurrences primarily reflect the canvas of the novel as a whole. This is a very vague and ambiguous assertion, but to my understanding he doesn’t see the characters significant to the meaning that Charles Dickens aims to present in his “panorama. ” This is entirely untrue as characters throughout the novel symbolize higher meaning than how they’re portrayed in the novel.
For example, the Marquis represents an entire oppressive aristocracy controlling society and the revolutionaries represents an entire radical system demanding reform. This accusation by Alter as well contradicts many of his insightful analysis, involving the role of the novel’s character such as his comparison between Sydney Carton and Jesus Christ, which is a prominent ideal. I however do agree on his proposal that Dickens was unconcerned with the actual history of the French Revolution as he really sought to use the setting to demonstrate moral corruption in the face of adversity.
This is evident in the analysis by Sir James F. Stephen, where he claimed that Dickens didn’t have any prior knowledge to the French Revolution before writing A Tale of Two Cities (Stephen, 21). He wrote about how the setting was used to convey a strong sense of emotion (Stephen, 21). Besides Alter’s nonsensical accusation of the insignificance of the novel’s characters, Robert Alter provides a very insightful and intuitive analysis of A Tale of Two Cities with substantial evidence to support his claims.
He presents superb observation of the novel transcending elements that explain the deeper meaning of the novel as a whole. Overall, he does a fairly adequate job and provides a justifiable standpoint. In JF Hamilton’s literary criticism, he spotlights his emphasis on the bipolarity of conflicting forces portrayed in A Tale of Two Cities. For instance, Hamilton takes focus on contradictory phrases and symbols in the novel like “the best of times” and “worst of times, as well as “the age of wisdom” and “the age of foolishness,” but most prominently, he emphasises a large correlation of darkness and light throughout Dickens’s novel.
Hamilton asserts that the counteracting ideals create a consequential paradox, demonstrating the prevalence of light and darkness throughout the course of history. He perceives a paradox between England and France, geared more especially to the quality of their capitals who bear diverse mindsets. England represents light as it displays civility and compliance, while France stands for darkness as it displays mass chaos and mayhem during the time period. Hamilton furthers his proposal, affirming that the capitals are more so represented by the characters of Lucie Manette and Madame Defarge.
He assert both have many commonalities, despite having differing mindsets, stating that both exceed their limitations as females and exemplify destinies to their countering ideals. JF Hamilton recognizes Lucie Manette as an angelic figure throughout the novel that provides comfort and unity amongst her loved ones. She’s essentially perceived as pure of heart and immune to any evil. He thus claims this is the reason for the title of the second portion of the novel, which is “The Golden Thread,” referring to Lucie’s blonde hair.
Lucie acts a “social fiber” and unifies characters thus influencing Dickens to refer to her as a “golden thread. ” Hamilton portrays her as an all-around morally just person as a result of the kindness she demonstrates. In contrast, JF Hamilton recognizes Madame Defarge as a source of evil, in the form of a demonic witch with a craze and infatuation in vengeance against the Evremondes and aristocracy.
He goes so far to even call her the “Goddess of death. Hamilton refers to many of Defarge’s ferocious scenes, especially the scene of her unleashing her wrath against Charles Darnay’s child, Lucie. Defarge indignantly points her knitting needle towards Lucie, stating, “Is that his child? ‘ said Madame Defarge, stopping at her work for the first time, and pointing her knitting needle at little Lucie as if it were the finger of fate. ” Hamilton as well asserts that knitting additionally embodies Defarge as a spider, demonstrating a sense of production and animalism due to her crave for blood and mutilation.
Moreover, Defarge’s needles connect to her various crazes for destruction like the guillotine posing as a daughter symbol. Hamilton as well asserts that Defarge is a hermaphrodite, allowing her to have the audacity to perform such radical actions. Furthermore, Hamilton sees weaving and knitting as significant motifs, representing yet another deeper contradictory force. Weaving in the novel demonstrates a sense of life and unity, while knitting symbolizes demise, accounting death sentences of aristocrats.
Accordingly Hamilton believes weaving represents a sense of light, life, and salvation, while knitting embodies darkness, censure, and death. Hamilton perceives both elements as “nurturing functions of women and mystery,” spiritually connecting them to divinity. These connections essentially portray Lucie Manette as the goddess of life and Defarge as the goddess of death. In response to JF Hamilton’s literary analysis, I essentially find his claims and ideals valid justifiable for the most part.
He provides much intuition and insight in the counteracting forces within the novel, displaying a new depth of how it played a role in the novel as a whole. He gives substantial support by use of various connections and textual evidence. Most notably, Hamilton chooses to embody light and darkness through the characters of Lucie Manette and Madame Defarge, which differs greatly to Robert Alter’s interpretation. Symbolically, he exemplifies their vast differences, yet ultimate likeness to the countries of France and England.
JF Hamilton offers extensive description of Manette and Defarge to uphold his claim. He furnishes parallels and key differences in the comparison between both characters, strengthening his position. He associates many commonalities between the characters, such as their transcending roles and expectations as females, as well as their drive for moral completion. Hamilton as well provides very analytical comparison, distinguishing Lucie Manette’s’ representation of light, warmth, and spirituality to Madame Defarge’s demonic and apocalyptic portrayal.
He incorporates symbolism to demonstrate the complex yet formidable relationship between Defarge and Manette to add a new depth of interpretation. This is evident through the effective incorporation of symbolic disconnection between weaving and knitting. Weaving, which corresponds to Lucie Manette, demonstrates salvation and virtue, whereas knitting respectively exhibits Defarge and her satanic and unforgiving conscience. Despite Hamilton presenting many valid claims, I don’t agree with his accusation regarding Madame Defarge’s transvestite condition.
There’s hardly any evidence supporting this odd and unconventional claim. Hamilton’s only support is that Defarges performs very manly acts like unmerciful slaughter and intimidating those who come across her ambition, but this evidence is incomplete and hardly accomplishes anything. He provides no insightful ideals to expand on this very absurd proposal. The same goes for his symbolic connection between the knitting needle and the male penis in his statement, asserting, “The self-appropriation of the phallus, as symbolized by the images of? nitting-needle’ and ‘finger,’ lends to Madame Defarge the aura of a malevolent hermaphroditism. ”
Again, Hamilton provides little to no evidence, disapproving the validity of this irrational assertion. Conclusively, Hamilton provides an intuitive analysis on Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, focusing primarily on the counteracting forces predominate throughout the course of the novel. Despite his ludicrous proposal of Madame Defarge’s transvestite condition, he thoroughly attacks the subject with in depth interpretations and substantial evidence.