NOTE:  This entry is ONLY for Per 1, 2, and 3


A_tale_of_two_cities_1935_film_2Leave it to some goofy English teacher to make this connection.  Or perhaps consider it a question asked by a college admissions officer in your future.  Either way, prepare to take a giant leap of intellectual faith on this one [insert one well-timed Cheshire Cat grin here].

By this point in time, you’ve already sat back in your proverbial chair with an ah-gosh-sucks (or something like it) look upon your face.  Truly. You have.


Well, because you’ve waited your entire life to finally figure out WHY Dickens wrote the following at the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” (opening lines of Tale of Two Cities’ “Book the First: Recalled to Life”, page 5 in Mr. Long’s copy)

Your challenge:

  • Compare this quotation — one of the great quotations in all of literature — to your experience as a teenager and high school student.
  • 3+ paragraphs, 5+ sentences

Is it an intellectual leap of faith?  Sure.

And yet, not at all.

Take a look at the quotation more than once.  You’ll see what I mean.  Now all you have to do is take Dickens’ ideas — about the era of the French Revolution specifically — and see how they universally tie to the very act of being a 10th grader in the year 2008.

Bon chance, as one of Dicken’s French characters might say.


13 responses to “Q4, W3, #5: TAKING A LEAP OF FAITH

  1. High school is supposedly the best years of your life, the time where all middle age adults wish and dream they could return to. High school is also the most challenging and most difficult experience many of us will ever face, both mentally and socially. High school is “the best of times” in that we are in the prime of our life, as far as youth and strength are concerned. The whole entire world of possibilities is new and fresh, just waiting to be explored. In high school, you can be and dream to be anything and anybody. However, high school fulfills the “worst of times” side of the quotation in many ways as well. We are put under more pressure and more stress than anything we have ever experienced before, from every plausible source. Also, that ‘fresh’ world of possibilities seems to be almost too big and too daunting. In high school you are basically forced into making the most difficult decisions of your life. Almost daily the broken record plays over and over again: where are you going to college? What do you want to do? What are you going to be? These questions are incessantly chanted in our ears, making it impossible to forget how big, how important, and how scary the future seems. One wrong decision can mean everything. It can mean that you won’t get into the college of your dreams, it can mean you won’t be what you have always aspired to be, and that is a frightening concept for me, someone who has only been alive for fifteen years, to consider. High school is “the best of times” and “the worst of times”, and I’m not sure which is predominant.

    Specifically, high school is like the era of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment in its focus of the pursuit of knowledge. We are learning concepts that are completely foreign and alien, and these concepts are shaping who we are and who we will be. The smallest fact is everything. The knowledge that we are gaining is everything. Right now, every single student in our grade is imbued with the feeling that they could own the world with what they know, despite the daunting fact that we know relatively little. High school is the “epoch” of intellectual discovery for us all. However, the “other way” is as apparent as the greatness of the time we are inhabiting now. While we are on the precipice of the most intense revelations of our lives, there is also the chance that we may slip and fall down the cliff, instead of climbing over it. One word, one sentence, can be and create everything, but one slip, one false word, can destroy with far greater ease. While we are on the verge of intellectual knowing that we cannot even fathom, we are also starving to be different, to be unique. To gain a fragment of self and of independence can lead even the most rational and reasonable to become the utter opposite and rebel and revolt against the ‘strains’ that we place on ourselves. We are all trying to be different and somehow break away from what we have known all of our lives, yet our parents and teachers may not understand that even if they have been through it themselves. Even the most drab individual is still an individual and still wants to be one, and in high school it is not always possible to do so during the pursuit of ultimate knowledge.

    “Everything is before us” in that we have our entire lives in front of us. “Nothing is before us” because we realize that after high school, what is there? College; more school, just in a different setting and presented in a different manner. Work; toiling everyday, always trying to be the best, it sounds just like high school to me. Retirement? Hah, by the time we get there, what will there be to do? We live our entire lives focused around high school, using everything just to get to the next level, but the next level is the exact same, an endless toil to get to the next tier of life. Nothing is before us because all that is before us is what we already have. However, everything and anything seem to be possible. It is the “spring of hope”, it is the time to do whatever you want with your life and live it how YOU want to. High school tells us that we can do whatever we want and that the world is waiting for us to get there and blossom. High school tells us that what we are doing here and now will make us better in the future. However, sometimes it is hard to believe that anything will get better. College will present the same hopes and frustrations as high school, as will careers and work. If you go down this line of thinking, it is hard to see the light at the end and even think that there is another way, but there is. It may seem to be predominantly the “worst of times”, but there will always be the “best of times” if we are willing to find it and act upon it, and not wait for the good to reveal itself to us.

  2. I think the best of times worst of times concept perfectly describes high school. We don’t have to support ourselves, but we have to deal with the drama of being in high school. The not completely independent is a drawback and a good thing. It allows us to have time to spend with our friends and to relax, but it also means that we don’t always get to do everything we want since we live under our parent’s rules. The drama is also a drawback. It is annoying how everything you say is immediately twisted and someone takes offence. It is almost impossible to be yourself and not be rejected.

    I thing the foolishness wisdom comparison is also very valid for us 10th graders. We think we know everything, and that we are always right, when we are sorely mistaken. We don’t know half the things we need to. We may be book smart, but we don’t have much common sense. We think we are invincible, but we aren’t. This is a time of learning about that though. I guess it’s the best time to go through it, since you still have your parent’s health insurance.

    I also think the epoch of belief/ incredulity is incredibly relevant. We are honestly questioning everything we have been taught right now. We want to learn our own way, not from our parents. We wonder what the importance of high school is. We question if there is a God or multiple gods. We honestly wonder. But we also try to hang on to the things we have experienced ourselves even more than before. We really believe what we want to, even though it may not be correct.

  3. There are so many ways this quote can tie into high school its crazy. High school is definitely some of the best times you will have. You have fun, hang out with your friends and go crazy. You make some of the best memories in high school so I have been told. But high school can also at the same times be the worst times of your life. You have a ton of homework; you might have a fight with your boyfriend or girlfriend that brings your life crashing down. Yet you can still find the good in it.

    In my opinion high school can is definitely the “age of wisdom” because you are learning so many skills beyond how to do complicated math problems. You learn how to have people skills too and survive a ‘mock world’ that is high school. Most kids are also very foolish in high school. This is the time for everyone to make their mistakes big and small. Your going to have good times and bad times; so the light and dark times. In winter time you are sad because its only winter and you have finals, however in spring you get excited because thank goodness school is almost out and you then actually look forward to this set of finals because it is what will set you free.

    In high school you have so much to look forward to. You have your whole life ahead of you but some might be a little scared and not look forward to it as much until they are seniors. You also have the good guys and bad guys in high school. Everyone is striving to be that one thing in high school when in reality it doesn’t even matter. People make such a big deal out of it when it really isn’t.

  4. I find the opening lines to be timeless and poignantly memorable to so many readers because it is relevant to the human condition universally, including being a 10th grader. Charles Dickens, of course, wrote this about an era of upheaval and unpredictable changes, like the era of French Revolution. But by expressing the feeling of contradicting reality so well, his statements feel applicable even to a modern teenager. It is not just his method of juxtaposition, but the words he chose are memorable as well. Words in phrases such as “best of times,” “age of wisdom,” “epoch of belief,” to name a few, are memorable on its own and beautiful to recite. As one reads those beautiful and powerful words, one can connect with Dickens in the feeling of confusion, bewilderment, and helplessness by overwhelming circumstances.

    The reason I find being a 10th grader to be a time similar to being in the era of French Revolution is the very feeling of being in contradicting reality. Being a 10th grader is the best of times in the sense that I am learning to drive finally. I have an i-phone! My sister is relying on me for homework help. Age of wisdom! I am feeling close to college! The possibilities seem endless at this point. Spring of hope! But then, I despair, because I am nearing being an 11th grader. I will have but 2 years of dependency and guidance. Is my grade good enough? Is it too late to bring it up? What would my life be at college? What college would accept me? Suddenly, I feel the “worst of times,” “age of foolishness,” and all that entails in feeling not ready in midst of enormous changes. Certainly, a 10th grader can connect with Dickens in the era of French Revolution.

    Dickens in the opening lines can connect with many readers because he reminds people of the concept of yin-yang. I don’t know a lot about the concept, but basically, the concept of yin-yang is the concept of complementary opposites. What is seemingly the same is opposite, and what seems to be opposite is the same. Everything is interconnected, and yet is contradictory. Dickens expresses this tension, uncertainty, and mystery that people feel in all ages. This reminder is unforgettable and comforting to me as a 10th grader.

  5. At first, I didn’t really see how this quote related to being a teenager. But the more I think about it, it describes teenage experiences exactly. Being in the tenth grade has been great, but at the same time it has been full of challenges. It has been the best and worst of times. I am glad the school year is almost over and summer is practically here. I also think about how when tenth grade ends, I will be so much closer to graduating and being in the real world. When the quote says the age of wisdom and foolishness, I think that really depicts my year. I feel like I have learned a lot this year and that I know a lot more than I did before. As a teenager though, I have been “foolish” in some ways. We think we are invincible, but in reality we make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them.

    The quote mentions a lot of things that are true about being a teenager. It talks about how things are opposites, like the season of Light and the season of Darkness. I have felt that this year has been full of light and dark. Being a high school student is difficult, with the amount of homework that we get. There are a lot of projects and reports that make being a student very tedious. But the experiences I have had were worth it.

    My favorite part of this quote is when it says we had everything before us, we had nothing before us. As tenth graders, we have our whole lives ahead of us. We have the opportunity to graduate and go to college, and have a great life. But also, we have nothing before us. If we don’t try, and make our own futures we will have nothing. This quote relates so much to being a teenager the experiences we go through.

  6. When I decided to do this question and started thinking about it, it finally made sense to me why the first line of A Tale of Two Cities is so important. As this entry suggests, it is so relevant to our lives today. As my sophomore year of high school comes to an end I have very mixed feelings. Although I’m only barely halfway through so far high school has been quite an experience. On one hand if I’m being honest in these last two school years I have had to work much harder than I anticipated. Not that I expected things to be easy, but I was in for a big reality check. This year has definitely been my most stressful and as summer comes closer and closer it was getting really hard to not give in to my exhaustion.

    However, although my high school experience will require lots of work I intend to appreciate every moment of it. So many people have told me that these will be some of the best years of my life and I can’t let them pass me by. There are so many milestones reached in this short four years and so many opportunities to enjoy life. I have been really fortunate to be able to grow up with a great group of people. For all the days of frustration and mounds of homework, there are just as many great days to balance it out.

    Finally, I can never lose sight of the fact that I am building my future. From here on out, I am responsible for my own actions and I have the power to become whatever I want. With that said, I also know that I still have a lot to learn. There are plenty of mistakes to be made and many lessons to be learned. This is a fact that effect not only us as high school students, but everyone in the real world as well. There are two sides to every story and life will be always be a learning experience.

  7. I actually think this completely encompasses my high school experience so far. Being a teenager is both thrilling and insanely obnoxious. 10th grade, especially, has been a wild ride for me. Not only was I new at Oakridge, but I was new to Texas, which can definitely screw with a person’s head. It was definitely a bittersweet time.

    Moving was definitely ‘the best of times AND the worst of times’. Even though I’ve made a lot of friends, I miss my friends back home. And yet…I’ve discovered that the friends I left behind weren’t as close to me as I thought, which is also confusing. On the plus side, the friends I’ve made here are great, and with several of them, I believe I’ll be friends for quite a while. Yet I have mixed emotions about my friends, because I don’t really know which are honestly my good friends and which ones are simply friends with me because I’m here and there’s no one else. It’s definitely REALLY confusing.

    10th grade in general, though, was ALSO very much the best of times AND the worst of times, the age of wisdom AND the age of foolishness. Even though I’ve done pretty well in school and all, I’ve done some stupid things this year. And I haven’t done as well as I wanted to, grade-wise. A lot of bad things have happened to me this year, and I’ve made bad decisions. And yet, SOOOO many good things have happened to me this year. I’ve also made decisions of which I am proud. I guess the whole year has been like that, good and bad.

  8. When I first entered high school I was anxious, yet a little excited at the same time. Hanging out with my friends, being in a more mature environment, and reveling in the belief that I could do anything I wanted were indeed the “best of times” of high school up to this point, but there are also the “worst of times” to high school as well. Being in a completely new environment was a little stressful to me at first, even though I eventually managed to adjust. The workload was definitely a lot more than middle school, but I expected that it would be. In the beginning of high school I was ecstatic with all of the choices that I could make, that everything I do would affect how I would turn out in the future.

    And that possibility is the exact thing that I’ve seen some people around me slowly waste/ignore. Not doing homework, not studying for tests, of course at the start you think that it’s just a little thing, not that much of a big deal, but after awhile it starts becoming a habit and gradually you just stop caring about school all together. You end up going to school just so that you can fit in with rest of the crowd and look “normal”. Sad to say I see some of my friends, if they don’t do something quickly, who will end up living miserable lives, but who knows? I can’t be the judge of what their future will turn out to be.

    Yet I don’t understand what’s so “cool” about drinking, doing drugs, etc. Basically every single stereotypical peer pressure thing you could think of. Sure it might feel great to smoke just that once cigarette or have a little sip of that beer your friend offered you, but soon it’ll take a hold of your life and you won’t know how to do anything except try everything you can to get more of that “stuff” that makes you feel so good. However, on the other side of the spectrum there are people that I see who try their hardest in class to make good grades, to be successful, to make something of themselves. These people will eventually end up in possibly contributing something very special to society and even if they don’t, they’ll still live a happy, successful life. Some do indeed have everything before them, a world of possibilities and success, but other more unfortunate people have nothing before them or whatever they do have right now will be nothing more than a thought of what could have been.

  9. High school is the time in your life that you enjoy more than any. It is a time to find yourself and figure out who you are. It is the best of times when you get to be with your closest friends every day. Yet it is the worst when you consider all the drama and lies that come with the joy. When you at this age everything comes as a surprise: driving, boyfriends, lies, drama, cheating, and the entire work load given by the teachers.

    As we grow and figure out our entire why” questions we have seasons of greatness and seasons of darkness. I have found that emotions at this age are raging and it’s hard to know when someone or something is going to be great or awful. I think that the idea of something always having an opposite is the main reason the greatness always shines so brightly. It’s because once you get past the bad you realize how appreciative the good is.

    Throughout life there are going to be times when everything is going right and within in a few seconds the rug is ripped out from under you. Within the quote it says that, “we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.” I believe that when you have everything or nothing there is nothing worth fighting for. I know there is a happy medium and whether you find in high school one day everyone will. During the revolution there was so much arguing and disagreeing but also agreement and settlements’. I think that everything can tie into something else. High school and A Tale of Two Cities happen to work perfectly. I love the idea of knowing that someday I am going to find the positive of every situation.

  10. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”

    The four years of high school is the best of times and the worst of times. May 29-August something is the best times but any time not between those dates is absolutely terrible. We all act like we like school but really on the inside we despise it. Who could possibly like something there forced to do? Unless you enjoy learning, like me. I just wish we could learn things we want to learn, rather than waste our time learning something irrelevant to what we want to do with our lives.

    “it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness”

    Being sixteen years of age, I have got to experience the wisdom of my elders but also the foolishness of my classmates. I am living in an age of wisdom where my peers have had the experience and gained the “wisdom” to attempt to steer us young fools of wrong. But todays generation is full of foolishness. It seems like more and more kids that are my age feel invincible when really they are just idiots.

    “it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair”

    Spirng in high school is where most of us students catch are second wind. After spending all year saying “I will do better next year” I usually decide to get my act together some late April. Winter is the time of despair for us foolish students at our school. It seems like the the week before finals I always tell myself I am going to study but no, Tuesday night I decide to start cramming.

  11. High School is a curse in disguise. The buildings tower over you like castles and you are left standing thinking it is the most glorious place on earth. It is also supposed to be the time of parties and fun and then behind the scenes you are tired, you are working your way up the social ladder, and your constantly reminded that high school is about you getting into college and not you having fun. It is said to be the ‘best of times’ and then most just consider it a black rain cloud that doesn’t move for four years.

    “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness”, considering that most of our basic skills were taught in elemantary school, we are wise in that we now possess these skills. But we are cocky. Thinking that we know everything already, wanting to be done with school, knowing that the end is close. But you still have to learn more skills and how many more of those do we really need? As a tenth grader everything seems worthless because, you were freaking out about high school as a freshman because you were new and had to impress, and as a junior the college deal becomes serious and a senior, you are freaking out because you are going to leave your comfort zone.

    The entire quote and high school are both one thing and the opposite. If you are smart that is great, but then you were pushed to be smarter to know all the answer, you must or else your not considered smart anymore. The quote just restates that if you were one thing, you had to be the other. You could become the opposite, you could turn bad. Nothing is absolute, there isn’t an object that does not have it’s own evil-twin.

  12. After considering this, it is really easy to make a connection between Dickens’ quote in A Tale of Two Cities and my life as a high school student. For me, high school has its good days and of course, has its bad days as well. So the best of times and the worst of times reference from Dickens’ quote is very similar to the high school experience. Also the part where Dickens said that it was the age of foolishness and also of wisdom is completely true. In high school, only now as a sophomore I already feel like I have grown up so much from when I first started high school almost two years ago. I look at high school as a learning experience, and so this is a perfect comparison, in my opinion.

    During high school, we all obviously have our good days and our bad days. The seasons comment is kind of ironic because in my high school career I technically only have two seasons. Those are summer season and “school” season. The season of Dark can be compared to that of the “school” season 🙂 while the season of light is comparable to summer time. It is really interesting how much high school and Dickens’ quote relate to one another.

    Dickens’ intention was obviously not to talk about someone during their high school career. However, being able to make such a connection just shows all that the world has to offer. Being a high school student now helps me to have my mind wide open to make such connections. But overall, the best of times and worst of times part of the quote was the easiest to connect to high school. It is inevitable that no one will have a life that is all the best of times, especially during high school. So because of that, this connection was very easy for me to make 🙂

  13. I think this quote definitely describes high school accurately. Some parents (and teachers) describe high school as the time when a student finds their passion in life and who they want to be, or on a bigger scale, who they really are. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” accurately addresses the part of our intellectual development in high school. Some say we’re at the peak of our intellect at this time; we learn so many things, we make many new friends and all that jazz. Yet, with that “best of times” package comes the “worst of times”: high school has been, by far, the WORST years of my life. Stress, the schoolwork, the studying, the exhaustion, the sleepless nights, the drama — all bundled up into one neat package.

    I once read an article (I actually think it was from a past blog) that described life from a parent’s point of view. It praised a perfect, straight-A daughter, who was responsible and trustworthy — yet, one day, she rear-ends another car while text messaging. The article, from the parent’s point of view, asked the reader how your responsible, straight-A daughter could so recklessly rear-end another car, which it later explained that teenagers are full to the brim of knowledge and potential, yet don’t know what to do with all that intellect. That perfectly describes high school as “the age of wisdom… the age of foolishness”. We have so much knowledge, yet we don’t know how to apply it sometimes — we can be extremely smart, yet we’re still… teenagers. We’re still foolish.

    “We had everything before us, we had nothing before us” — we have, as high schoolers, so many accomplishments before us. We’ve evolved mentally and emotionally, overcome challenges teachers have presented us, and even found a little more about ourselves along the way. It seems like we have everything before us. Yet, in reality, we have nothing. High school is just one small step in the hugeness of life. We still have college, we still have to get a well-paying job to support a family. In comparison to the hugeness of our future, it seems as if high school is just a small blot of nothingness along the way.

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