Classics Challenge April: Cover art

I missed November Autumn’s Classic challenge questions for Feb and March, and I felt bad about it. Total *fail* honestly. I kept meaning to post my reply to her great prompts but somehow the time to sit at the computer for a significant period never came along. That is the hardest thing about blogging for me, finding that stretch of time where I am willing, able, and really want to sit at the computer for hours. And it does take hours. I am not a post and go person. It’s all or nothing up in here with the nothing winning by far!

Ah well, bygones. I am here to answer her April prompt which is:

What are your first impressions as you look at the cover?
Does the book cover have an aspect that reflects the character, setting, or plot of the novel?

I just finished reading A Tale of Two Cities. It was slow going at first but I am glad I stuck with it (thanks ladies who encouraged me!) because the book did turn out to be great. The last 100 pages were a whirlwind! And Carton! Carton!! When he and the young girl were holding hands, comforting each other, so poignant. I was holding back the tears on the last page.
And I loved Madame Defarge! I know she is horribly wicked but she was the most developed and interesting character, I thought, until the rest of the characters came to life in the last 150 pages.

I read the Barnes and Noble edition which has the painting Storming the Bastille by Jean-Pierre Houel on the cover

My first impression of the cover is that it is an obvious choice since it depicts the fall of the Bastille, a Paris prison, an event that helped kick off the Revolution. I think the chaos that Dickens tried to capture in the book is well illustrated in the painting. The entrance in the center of the painting looks like the gate to Hell and Dickens’ account of the revolution makes you feel that the French peasants were in a living Hell and once they had enough, they reached up and drug the rich down into Hell with them. The Bastille’s broken down walls capture literally and figuratively how French society fell. The smoke in the image reminds me of this line from the book

There could have been no such Revolution, if all laws, forms, and ceremonies, had not first been so monstrously abused, that the suicidal vengeance of the Revolution was to scatter them all to the winds.

Something that makes this painting a particularly apt cover for The Tale of Two Cities is that the storming of the Bastille was, in a way, rather senseless. There were only seven prisoners in the Bastille, four forgers, two “lunatics”, and a “deviant” friend of the Marques De Sade. Yet 98 revolutionaries, aka Bastille attackers, gave their life tearing it down. Of course taking over the Bastille and destroying it symbolized the destruction of the old ways, of royal and rich tyranny. But did it do much quantifiable good? I think Dickens wants us to ask that of the whole Revolution. It may have been an uprising of “the People” but did it really do any Good for those same people…