Thursday, January 12, 2006

Book the Third - Chap. 8-12

The deadline for the novel was yesterday. Since I get the sense that people may be behind, I will hold my closing commentary off for a little while longer. A few things to pay attention to as you come to the end of the novel:

General Note
- Pay attention to the voice of the novel throughout this section. Dickens noticeably changes to active voice, present tense in certain parts, reverting to "story tense" in others. Many critics simply see this as a narrative tool for suspense, and it certainly has that effect. However, I think there is more there - because along with the vocal change, the point-of-view shifts somewhat as well. In the first section, one almost swears that the point-of-view is Lorry, but that is not quite it. It's a presence very closely associated with Lorry in any event. In the later section, there's a more omniscient voice than anywhere else in the novel. This is significant: Dickens has taken on a historical persona in his narration thus far. I suggest - and welcome debate - that the voice is associated with God's Spirit, motivating the lives of these people. He remains thus with the "actors" when speaking in this voice - with Lorry and with Carton. And particularly in the last section, when the voice tells us what Carton is thinking...

Just an idea. I've never come across it in any scholarship. Any thoughts?

Chapter Thirteen
- Dickens' acting career gave him a wonderful sense of drama. Try to picture the scene between Syndney Carton and Charles Darnay taking place inside the prison: it's a very cool scene.

Chapter Fourteen
- This chapter's importance is easily overlooked. Yet it is a powerful scene, and one of great significance to the themes central to the novel. Try to imagine the two women, standing opposite one another, speaking each in her own language. Recall the beginning of the novel, where Dickens set up the book by noting that "every man is equal" insofar as each is a profound mystery to any other. This chapter may be seen as a microcosm of the whole book. The conflict, the humor, the alienation, the personification of each of the two cities, and the love which overpowers even the greatest evil: it's all there. It's a great chapter - probably my favorite.

Chapter Fifteen
- Note the hour of the day.
- Let this chapter soak in. Really sit with it, and reflect upon it. As powerful as it is to begin with, it's like anything good that gains flavor and taste over time. I sometimes pick up the book and reread this one chapter when I'm feeling down, or just the monologue at the end. It's a great passage to spiritualize.


My final notes on the text.

- Where the narrative changes in voice near the end, becoming a more omniscient, yet also somehow more "involved" voice, it is noticably related to the character of Mr. Lorry. It was Mr. Lorry who brought the work of Providence into the action of the novel, and it was he who was charged with the task of recalling someone to life. I suggest that Dickens does have a religious message in the end of the book, and is taking steps to ensure the reception of this theme by his audience.

- Carton has by the end of the novel "opened up" - notice the pun in the man's name. He has become a Christ figure and a very moving, dynamic one at that. He is one of the most superbly written and formed characters in all of literature, in my opinion.

- The conflict between the two women is my favorite scene in the entire book. Miss Pross is quite an impressive character. Her English womanhood is probably a personification of the country of England itself, which is usually identified in feminine terms

My final assessment of the work is merely a restatement of my working premise. The book is about the movement of Providence, and the guiding force of Divine Love as it motivated people's lives and makes itself manifest in their various actions. I would not hesitate to call this a great Catholic book because of its reflectiveness, its dealing with the themes of forgiveness and resurrection. The character of Jerry Cruncher, ironically, may be considered central to the work. One might not think so in a first read, but try to go back and take a second look at the work. The more I read the novel, the more convinced I become that Jerry's transformation throughout the action of the book is a sort of thematic presentation sort of like underscoring in a musical piece. It subtly reintroduces the central points and drives them home in an unassuming way.

Thanks to all who have participated, or at least read along (on the blog). Next book coming soon!



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