Secret Worlds Part 2: One Reason to Worship Dickens

Books don’t make me cry the way sad movies and humane society commercials can, but the well-written word has impressive staying power, forming snapshots in my brain that I will never be able to forget, for better or for worse.

There’s a suicide, for example, in Martin Amis’s novel Night Train, that will never get out of my head, no matter how much I yell at it to leave. Same thing with one of the holocaust stories in Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.

But here’s one of the beautiful ones: a passage from Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities that is so evocative and profound, it can stay in my head for as long as it wants. It’s what inspired my last post, and my next one (stay tuned).

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city at night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it!”

city at night

“Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this….My friend is dead, my neighbor is dead, my love, the darling of my soul, is dead; it is the inexorable consolidation and perpetuation of the secret that was always in that individuality, and which I shall carry in mine to my life’s end. In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?”

(Image from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay)

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August 20, 2013 · 05:39

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