in Dickens's Tale
A Tale of Two Cities has probably given serious critics of Dickens more trouble than any other of his novels. Written at the height of Dickens's artistic maturity, it seems almost willfully to turn away from the very modes of imagination that had made him great and to stress some of the facile formulas that had merely made him popular. From the first, admirers of Dickens have sensed this book to be an uncharacteristic expression of his genius, while Dickens's detractors have seized upon it as a transparent revelation of his general weakness as a novelist. The novel offers good evidence for both views, though the former seems to me on the whole the more cogent of the two. On the one hand, it is clear that Dickens was attempting something new, as he himself confesses in his letters, in treating this whole historical subject. The fact, on the other hand, that the general strategy of this novel differs from that of his other fiction has the effect of leaving certain regrettable conventional elements nakedly exposed which, in the more typical novels, are submerged in the great swirl of brilliant fantastication that can only be called Dickensian. In Little Dorrit, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Our Mutual Friend, the teeming life of Dickensian invention tends to draw our attention away from the imaginative thinness of the heroes and heroines, the contrived coincidences, the strained notes of melodrama, the moments of dewy-eyed, lip-serving religiosity, while the more intently dramatic presentation of character and event in A Tale of Two Cities frequently stresses just these qualities.
The Tale, then, is conspicuously the uneven work of a writer____________________
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Publication information: Book title: Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. Contributors: Harold Bloom - Editor. Publisher: Chelsea House. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1987. Page number: 13.
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