Today is Bastille Day, a day that celebrates the beginning of the French revolution: the storming of the prison, La Bastille.
On this date, who doesn’t think of the character from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, Madame Defarge? She was a knitter without mercy who passed judgement and insisted upon the execution of many individuals considered to be enemies of the French people. In every one of her scenes in the book, she is knitting. What she is knitting is gruesome: a list of those whom she considers deserve to die.
I read A Tale of Two Cities for the first time about 15 years ago. I have always been a big fan of Dickens. I love his convoluted, coincidence-filled – yet logical – plots. One thing about the book that I found especially satisfying is that it has one of the most famous opening lines and one of the most famous closing lines. What other piece of literature can claim this honor?
The Beginning –
“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.”
The End –
“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.”
Can’t you just hear Ronald Coleman’s distinctive voice saying those last words?