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Is the passage, "France, less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritual than her...

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user9615568 | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 4, 2013 at 3:48 AM via web

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Is the passage, "France, less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness down hill, making paper money and spending it. Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honour to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards." from A Tale Of Two Cities an example of realism? 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 4, 2013 at 8:36 AM (Answer #1)

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This passage from the opening chapter of A Tale of Two Cities is not typical of Realism, although it does have some realistic details. While Realism depicts life objectively as it is with only factual elements, Charles Dickens does not limit himself to objectivity and realistic facts. Instead, Dickens interprets some facts with satire and employs subjective diction, as well as figurative language, at times.  

Clearly the first line of this passage exemplifies subjectivity as Dickens offers his opinion of France as being less spiritual than England. In the next sentence, Dickens uses figurative, not factual, language as he personifies France who "entertains herself." This remark is also satiric. Furthermore, Dickens continues to satirize as he alludes to a "humane achievement" of the French authorities, guided by "Christian pastors," who order a young man terribly maimed because he did not kneel before "a dirty--also a subjective judgment--procession of monks.  

Subsequent to this passage in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens then writes of the guillotine in a very figurative manner,

It is likely enough that, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, there were growing trees, when that sufferer was put to death, already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it, terrible in history. 

His inclusion of the personified Woodman, otherwise know as Fate, denotes that there is, indeed, nore than Realism in A Tale of Two Cities

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