When I taught British Literature, I could hardly wait until Spring semester when we would study A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens as our example of 19th century.
Are you familiar with this work? I could wax on and on about the author’s genius use of foreshadowing and the emotional impact of the sacrificial love theme, but that would be the subject of another post.
When I visited Paris in 2011, one of my goals was to revisit the important settings in this novel, most notably the Bastille, Faubourg St. Antoine, and Place de la Concorde, the original location for all the beheadings.
Place de la Concorde is one of the largest public squares in Paris. Today it is known for its magnificent Obelisk representing the end of troubled times and bright hope for the future. It is hard to believe two hundred years ago this was home of La Guillotine, where thousands of French men and women lost their lives.
As part of the Paris Museum Pass I mentioned earlier this week, I visited La Conciergerie, located on the Ile de la Cite near Notre Dame. This little-known museum was the former prison during the French revolution where incarcerated men and women waited their turn to march towards the Guillotine and certain death. The cell of Marie Antoinette is staged to show her final days.
I was most disappointed when I visited the Bastille. Once considered the bastion of the French Revolution (the French celebrate Bastille Day on July 14 the way we celebrate the 4th of July), it is now located next to a busy street, nothing but a few rocks and small plaque remain to commemorate this significant spot.
Faubourg St. Antoine was a prominent feature in the novel. It was home to Monsieur and Madame DeFarge, the local ringleaders of the Revolution. While it is still a thriving neighborhood today, there is nothing here to remind me of the revolution except the slogan outside the hospital: Liberte, Fraternite, Egalite.