On July 14, 1789, an angry mob of French commoners stormed the Bastille in Paris. These low-class citizens had only one thing on their minds as they initiated a nation at war, and that was revenge - revenge on the King and the government, on the nobles and the wealthy. Dickens stunningly depicted the motive for this revenge, this hate that all peasants had for the aristocracy, in A Tale of Two Cities.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, . . . " In these famous words, Dickens renders an image of the unity of good and bad at the time of the French Revolution. These words exemplify that wisdom and foolishness, hope and despair, were all one and the same. This was the actual basis of the Revolution.
One example that Dickens used to portray the condition of the lower class of Paris was the breaking of the wine cask. He cleverly illustrated the poverty and hunger among the people of St. Antoine, as they scavenged for a taste of the precious red liquid before it trickled away. The stain of the spilled wine left an ever-present reminder that the waste of the elite was life's blood to the peasants.
Dickens imaged the aristocrat as if he were a constant masquerade, burying all internal traits with external garnishments. In his description of the Monseigneur's "fancy ball," he first presents this notion. The Marquis St. Evremonde proved to be one of those who concealed any inner affections, when he ran down the son of Gaspard. His arrogance toward the lower class was especially apparent in this episode, and seemed to represent the attitude of all of the upper class toward the peasants.
The time of the Revolution was a time of true affluence and power for the aristocracy. However, their uncontrollable greed ultimately led to their deaths at the hands of the lower class. For the peasants, the French Revolution was about standing up for their rights and going all out to get them. By gaining the power of destruction, they could eventually put behind them their ordeal of living life in the poorest conditions. These were indeed the best of times and the worst of times.