I have been receiving hundreds of emails about the quote by Sydney Carton to the right. Maybe not hundreds, or maybe not even one, but I can dream, right? But you have to admit, you are a little curious.
In my previous life, before staying home with my kids, I taught seventh grade. Each year, we read through A Tale of Two Cities. Sadly, I read this book in high school and while I can’t remember the specific teacher, I am sure that she tried her best to unlock the mystery and dynamic message in the novel; but it was lost on a student who just didn’t get it.
And so, my time came. I remember the excitement I felt as I stood at the front of the class with my book in hand. Can you just imagine the looks on the little adolescent faces as I began the first line, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”? Then, it got worse, I asked them what they thought about such a conflicted opening line. The good news? It did get easier. The more I taught and the more I learned myself, it became bearable. Unfortunately, it was never what I wanted it to be for them.
During my last year of teaching, I remember announcing to the class that we would begin A Tale of Two Cities on Monday. They couldn’t stop laughing. I was horrified. This was one of my favorites; a story I held so close to my heart and there they sat, laughing. When I asked what was so funny, one brave soul said, “This is the one that you get all teary-eyed when that one guy says, ‘I dream of your soul, or something lame like that.’” They cracked up even more.
And so I decided to make them pay. This was the class that was going to get it. With this class I would give it my all and present it in such a way that they would not be able to escape the captivating themes and the meaning of the final sacrifice. I want so badly to tell you that as I read these words to them, foreshadowing the events to come, they sat crying their little eyes out and believing it to be one of the most touching moments in literary history. But no, I sat there misty-eyed, reading Carton’s lines and knowing what was to come and once again, they burst into laughter.
This truly is one of my favorite stories. And yes, even now thinking about Sydney Carton, speaking to Miss Mannette and telling her of his feelings and what he would do for her, and then at the end of the book, finding that he fulfils his promise! I can’t help it. My eyes water a little. And I know that this audience is reading along, and laughing.
So, I hope this explains the facination with the man: Sydney Carton.