British ClassicsDescribe the human violations of human dignity in a Tale of Two Cities.
The early part of the novel reveals one I think of as most shocking, and that is how the aristocrat runs down a small boy with his speeding carriage and, as recompense, tosses a few coins in the street at the father.
With a wild rattle and clatter, and an inhuman abandonment of consideration not easy to be understood in these days, the carriage dashed through streets and swept round corners, with women screaming before it, and men clutching each other and clutching children out of its way. At last, swooping at a street corner by a fountain, one of its wheels came to a sickening little jolt, and there was a loud cry from a number of voices, and the horses reared and plunged.
"Killed!" shrieked the man, in wild desperation, extending both arms at their length above his head, and staring at him. "Dead!"
He threw out a gold coin ... [and the] tall man called out again with a most unearthly cry, "Dead!"
The entire novel is full of what might be called "human violations." Read the opening chapter and you will see, among other things, that people in England are being punished way out of proportion to their offenses because things are out of control. It gets worse from there and it covers the people in two countries. Doubt and distrust are rampant, and everybody suffers in that kind of a society. The inequity between the rich and poor in both countries would not have been a cause for violence except that most of the rich treated everyone else with such disdain, as evidenced by the appalling incidents of the brothers' horrific treatment of a young girl they desired, Manette's unwarranted incarceration, and the death of a young child which is treated so inhumanely by the aristocrat. We know things are bad when people try to console the father by telling him that his boy is better off dead. There is no humanity left.
Certainly the executions are at the top. It's hard to imagine a time when the blood lust among a group of people was so great that people were executed as quickly as the guillotine could be made ready, but then I need only remember the concentration camps, and more recently, Darfur.
I would also think we could include another branch of the madness of that time: imprisonment for a long period of time, as seen with Dr. Manette, released after twenty years.
The value of the human life was certainly small in both England and France. In England, the highwaymen massacred any number of travelers whom they robbed, and in the opening of the novel Dickens refers those in France who have had a youth "have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive" all because he did not kneel down in the rain to worship the dirty procession of monks."
Clearly the huge number of executions carried out as part of the French Revolution represent a massive violation of dignity, but in the same way we could equally argue that the excesses of the French aristocracy, as portrayed in this novel, and particularly in the story of Madame Defarge's family, indicate another way in which human dignity is violated.
One of the most vivid and memorable examples of the violation of human dignity in this novel (so memorable that I still recall it even though I have not read the novel in years) involves the sick public spectacle of people being executed while other people watch and knit.