Wednesday, August 14, 2019

A Tale of Two Cities

Repetition is one of the linguistic devices of which Charles Dickens is very fond, and the novelist makes things easy for his readers by his constant repetitions, and his habitual phrases are remembered by readers who are not used to reading with close attention. Dickens’s stylistic use of repetition reaches its climax in A Tale of Two Cities (1859). Therefore, it is fruitful to deal with the language of Dickens, especially that of A Tale of Two Cities, from the point of view of repetition in order to explore his linguistic artistry with which the novelist, inheriting the language of the 18th century, improved upon the style of English prose. In fact, Dickens exploits various types of repetition, that is, repetition of sounds, morphemes, words, phrases, and sentences for various stylistic purposes, such as association, implication, irony, characterization, or verbal iconicity. However, in this paper I focus my attention on the repetitive use of words or phrases. â€Å"Dickens makes a broader use of the symbols and allegories that had long been dear to him. † (Monod) In reality, A Tale of Two Cities is full of repeated imagery and symbolic patterns. We hear again and again the footsteps and the rising storm; we see the drinking of wine and the staining blood. This novel achieves linguistic and stylistic contiguity through the repeated use of symbolic words like â€Å"footstep,† â€Å"echo,† and â€Å"wine,† â€Å"blood,† which are closely related to the subject matter of the novel. To put it another way, repetition of symbolic words fulfills an important function of promoting the thematic cohesion, by which the themes of this novel are brought to light. Here, I concentrate my attention on the repetition of the key word â€Å"wine,† and its related words â€Å"red† and â€Å"blood. These words often co-occur with one another, and convey additional and different meanings as well as their own specific meanings, in accordance with the scenes or contexts, especially between the English and the French scenes. The word â€Å"wine† occurs 120 times, â€Å"red† 56 times, and  "blood† 35 times in total. 11 The chapters of the novel are divided into three groups: English chapters, French chapters, and English-French chapters, depending on the location of the incidents in each chapter. It is often pointed out that the word â€Å"wine† and its related words â€Å"red† and â€Å"blood† frequently co-occur as an indication of the French Revolution’s slaughter and bloodshed. This does not reveal how the words create the symbolical imagery of the bleeding Revolution. Needless to say, the Revolution’s slaughter and bloodshed are not simply hinted at and represented through the repetition and co-occurrence of these three words, but the related words co-occurring with them in the same contexts contribute to creating the bloody imagery. The different or contrastive use of repeated words in the English and the French scenes in A Tale of Two Cities enables the reader to realize the author’s deliberate exploitation of words in terms of the subject matter, that is to say, contrast between the two cities. The repetition of â€Å"plane-tree† together with that of â€Å"pleasant† serves to create a favorable family atmosphere in the English scenes. In sharp contrast to this, in the French scenes, the words â€Å"fountain† and â€Å"fate† directly convey some of the dominant themes of the book: death, future life, fate, and resurrection. It seems that Dickens suggests the inevitable outbreak of the French Revolution and the characters’ sealed destinies through the verbal associations of such repetitive words arranged mainly in the French scenes. It is worth examining the repetitive use of â€Å"plane-tree† and â€Å"fountain† more closely and concretely. The words convey not only their own meanings but additional ones as well, for instance, foreshadowing. One example of the repeated use of â€Å"plane-tree† and â€Å"pleasant† in the English scenes can be observed in passage (8): 8) On this occasion, Miss Pross, responding to Ladybirds pleasant face and pleasant efforts to please her, unbent exceedingly; so the dinner was very pleasant, too. It was an oppressive day, and, after dinner, Lucie proposed that the wine should be carried out under the plane-tree, and they should sit there in the air. As everything turned upon her, and revolved about her, they went out under the plane-tree , and she carried the wine down for the special benefit of Mr. Lorry. She had installed herself, some time before, as Mr. Lorry’s cup-bearer; and while they sat under the plane-tree, talking, she kept his glass replenished. Mysterious backs and ends of houses peeped at them as they talked, and the plane-tree whispered to them in its own way above their heads. (Bk. II, Ch. 6) In the context of the passage above, Dr. Manette, Lucie, Mr. Lorry, and Miss Pross are in the courtyard after dinner. The repeated use of â€Å"plane-tree† and â€Å"pleasant† in close proximity serves to create a comfortable and cozy atmosphere of domestic peace. At the same time, however, I find the repetition of the word â€Å"wine. † As already mentioned, â€Å"wine† in the English scenes is associated with a serious development in the plot. Through the co-occurrence of â€Å"plane-tree† with â€Å"wine† we can sense an impending misfortune to threaten Lucie’s happy family life, even though the â€Å"plane-tree† itself carries a good connotation. In fact, in the scene which follows the passage above, all the characters who gather under the â€Å"plane-tree† hear the footsteps of the people in the street caught in the sudden storm, which seems to be indicative of the outbreak of the French Revolution. Additionally, the personification of the â€Å"plane-tree† and â€Å"houses† in the last sentence also serves as an ominous harbinger. As another example of the repeated use of the â€Å"plane-tree,† let me examine the following two passages. Passage (9) is observed at the very beginning, and passage (10) at the very end of Chapter 17 of Book II: (9) Never did the sun go down with a brighter glory on the quiet corner in Soho, than one memorable evening when the Doctor and his daughter sat under the plane-tree together. Never did the moon rise with a milder radiance over great London, than on that night when it found them still seated under the tree, and shone upon their faces through its leaves. Lucie was to be married to-morrow. She had reserved this last evening for her father, and they sat alone under the plane-tree. â€Å"You are happy, my dear father? † â€Å"Quite, my child. † (Bk. II, Ch. 17) (10) (Lucie sits by her father’s bedside for a while. ) She[Lucie] timidly laid her hand on his[Dr. Manette’s] dear breast, and put up a prayer that she might ever be as true to him as her love aspired to be, and as his sorrows deserved. Then, she withdrew her hand, and kissed his lips once more, and went away. So, the sunrise came, and the shadows of the leaves of the plane-tree moved upon his face, as softly as her lips had moved in praying for him. Bk. II, Ch. 17) The first passage appears in the context where Lucie and her father sit outside under the â€Å"plane-tree† the night before her wedding, and she reassures her father that her love for Darnay will not alter her love for him. The repetitive use of the â€Å"plane-tree† (and also the words â€Å"the tree† twice) along with the words indicative of light, â€Å"sun,† â€Å"brighter,† â€Å"moon,† â€Å"radiance,† or â€Å"shone† is closely related with the domestic happiness and hope that Lucie and her father feel. Furthermore, in passage (10), the word denoting light, â€Å"sunrise,† is also used. At the same time, however, the â€Å"plane-tree† co-occurs with the word â€Å"shadow,† which seems to carry an ominous implication for Dr. Manette’s future. In reality, in the following chapter, Chapter 18 of Book II, Dr. Manette has temporarily reverted to shoemaking because of the shock of Charles Darnay’s revelation, on the morning of his wedding to Lucie, of his identity as a member of the St Evremonde family. It can be said that the repeated use of the â€Å"plane-tree† itself symbolically suggests the Manettes’ domestic peace, co-occurring with the words significant of light. Yet, the change of words co-occurring with the â€Å"plane-tree,† that is to say, the new combination of â€Å"plane-tree† and â€Å"shadow,† implies the characters’ future fate in terms of foreshadowing. The foregoing arguments justify stating that Dickens deliberately exploits the technique of repetition with great artistry in order to individualize characters, to make creative use of conventional symbolic meanings, to prefigure future events, and to convey the main themes of the novel, such as fate, resurrection, and contrast, to the minds of the reader. The novelist’s use of repetition for the stylistic effects of emphasis and irony can also e found in his other novels. However, in A Tale of Two Cities, the repetitions of words and phrases are well organized and structurally used, and thus have the obvious function of creating a strong sense of unity in the structure of the novel. In a metaphorical sense, as various kinds of threads are woven to gether into texture, various kinds of repetition are skillfully interwoven into the story, and provide a strong sense of continuity and association within the novel. Such structural use of repetition is one of the linguistic peculiarities of A Tale of Two Cities.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.