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Dickens And Mythology Essay

1671 words - 7 pages

The early nineteenth century was greatly influenced by Greek art and architecture after exhumations of Grecian works and the removal of the Parthenon Marbles to the British Museum. Charles Dickens, a great Victorian writer and English man, pursued many forms of art and literature at an early age. His education and excursions before and after the tragedy of his father’s imprisonment most likely led him to visit the museum or see other works inspired by Ancient Greek culture in the then Neoclassical period. In many of his works, including Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol, Dickens references Greek mythology to describe characters or their actions. Tale of Two Cities, one of Dickens’ ...view middle of the document...

This could be a reference to Zeus’ relationship with the Furies, controlling them and sending them to chase sinners to their deaths. The tax collectors have the same relationship with the Marquis, he sends them after the townspeople for their money and indirectly kills them by starvation. To again depict the Marquis and his entourage and let the reader consider who or what the Furies are compared to, Dickens describes the coach, “The postilions, with a thousand gossamer gnats circling about them in lieu of the Furies, quietly mended the points to the lashes of their whips…” (88). This detail appears after the Marquis drives away from questioning and insulting the people he governs. As his carriage hurtles by, thousands of gnats circle the coach and seem to chase it into the distance. This brings the more likely possibility that the Furies would not be an analogy to the Marquis and the tax collectors, but is instead a comparison to past, malicious actions chasing the Marquis wherever he goes. This theory could be interpreted from earlier sections of the novel where Monsieur the Marquis runs over a child playing in the street, reprimands the commoners for damaging his horses, and proceeds to pay for the child’s life with a single coin. After this scene, Madame Defarge is shown in the crowd, knitting the Marquis and all his sins into her death list. This addition of the Furies into the novel helps the reader visualize the scene, the Marquis riding at a breakneck pace with the whips of his carriage and thousands of insects swarming around him, and also furthers the theme of fate in the novel with the possibility the Furies were sent for Monsieur the Marquis, and his death as a sinner is destined.
Secondly, the Gorgon’s head is alluded to in the novel to better illustrate to readers the château of the Marquis and how the face of the dispassionate Monseiur the Marquis appears after death. The manor is detailed as a “… heavy mass of building, that château of Monsieur the Marquis, with a large stone courtyard before it, and two stone sweeps of staircase meeting in a stone terrace before the principal door. A stony business altogether, with heavy stone balustrades, and stone urns, and stone flowers, and stone faces of men, and stone heads of lions, in all directions. As if the Gorgon’s head had surveyed it, when it was finished, two centuries ago” (90). The Gorgons were three distasteful looking sisters with hair made of snakes and the reputation of turning all who looked at them into stone. This manor of the Marquis is made entirely of stone, with heavy stairs, balconies, and carved gargoyles detailing the cumbersome structure. Dickens alludes to the famous Gorgon sisters in Greek mythology to represent just how much of the château was made of this plain mineral. He uses this analogy in two separate way, stating later, “The Gorgon had surveyed the building again in the night, and had added the one stone face wanting; the stone face for which it had...

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