Sunday, February 19, 2023

The naturalization and medicalization of the French Revolution in Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities” (1859)

While Charles Dickens offers a quite negative portrayal of the Jacobins and the Terror in "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859), especially in the figure of Madame Defarge, he does not defend the Ancien Régime either: “Physical diseases, engendered in the vices and neglects of men, will seize on victims of all degrees; and the frightful moral disorder, born of unspeakable suffering, intolerable oppression, and heartless indifference, smote equally without distinction.” While Dickens here empathizes with the revolutionaries, his naturalization and medicalization of both the pre-revolutionary excess of "suffering, oppression, and indifference" and the excesses of revolutionary "disorder" makes social change a matter not of politics but of morality and hygiene.  (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 February 2023) 

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