Analysis of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’

A Tale of Two Cities is an 1859 historical novel by Charles Dickens, set just before and during the French Revolution, the two cities being London and Paris. The story is about the intersecting lives of Doctor Alexandre Manette, his daughter Lucie, and Charles Darnay in France, and Sydney Carton in England.

A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens’s most famous work of historical fiction, and it’s one of the best-selling novels of all time. It has been adapted for film, TV, radio, and the stage, and it continues to influence popular culture.

Here is a link to famous quotes from the novel.

Of all the themes in this novel, the dominant one seems to be duality, expressed in many forms: London/Paris, feudalism/capitalism, light/darkness, Darnay/Carton (two men so fortuitously similar in appearance as to seem twins), Lucie Manette/Madame Defarge (personifications of light and darkness, respectively), and life/death…or death/life, as manifested in symbolic resurrections in the story.

The famous beginning of the novel establishes this theme of duality: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,…” The dualistic paradoxes continue with this famous long opening sentence: wisdom/foolishness, belief/incredulity, Light/Darkness, hope/despair, everything/nothing, Heaven/”the other way,” and good/evil.

These juxtaposed opposites represent their dialectical unity, the clash of contradictions. Though the above opposites are of the Hegelian dialectic of ideas, they refer to an epoch famously discussed by Marx as of the historical, materialist dialectic. The novel begins in 1775, just fourteen years before the French Revolution, when the old feudal system would be violently replaced by the capitalist mode of production.

Another duality is seen when Dickens compares the French Revolution to politically radical activity going on in England around the time of the novel’s publication. He fears that a similar bloodbath to that of the Reign of Terror may occur in England, though by the end of the novel, things seem more hopeful for England, even to the point of a tinge of nationalistic pride (recall patriotic Miss Pross‘s defiant words to Madame Defarge: “I am a Briton”–Book Three, Chapter 14, page 407).

The duality of death/life becomes apparent in Book One, Chapter 2, when it is learned that someone has been “RECALLED TO LIFE.” This enigmatic phrase, we later learn, refers to Doctor Manette, who in his 18-year incarceration in the Bastille–a kind of death–has been freed, a kind of resurrection. Other symbolic resurrections, two of them, will occur for Darnay, thanks to his look-alike, Carton.

The trauma of Doctor Manette’s incarceration stays with him after his release, when we find him still making shoes, his work in the Bastille, in the darkness, something he no longer needs to do, but a task he feels psychologically compelled to continue doing. His union with Lucie, the daughter he’s never known and who until now has thought him dead, will bring him back into the light. ‘Lucie‘ literally means ‘light.’

She is so shocked to learn that her father is actually alive that she faints. Symbolically, father and daughter have exchanged the states of life and death, unified opposites like so many others in this story.

Another example of duality is that of two spilled reds: wine, and blood. In Chapter 5 of Book One, a large cask of wine is dropped on the ground by the wine shop of M. Ernest and Mme. Thérese Defarge, in the Faubourg Sainte-Antoine, a suburb of Paris. The poor people of the area rush over to have as much of a drink of the spilled wine as they can. One of them smears BLOOD on a wall with the muddy wine (page 32).

This eagerness of the poor to drink wine off the filthy ground is a reflection of their desperation, want, and hunger. “Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and started up from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker’s shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale. Hunger rattled its dry bones among the roasting chestnuts in the turned cylinder; Hunger was shred into atomies in every farthing porringer of husky chips of potato, fried with some reluctant drops of oil.” (page 33)

Soon after, Dickens relates Want to violent imagery: “The trade signs (and they were almost as many as the shops) were, all, grim illustrations of Want. The butcher and the porkman painted up only the leanest scrags of meat; the baker, the coarsest of meagre loaves. The people rudely pictured as drinking in the wine-shops, croaked over their scanty measures of thin wine and beer, and were gloweringly confidential together. Nothing was represented in a flourishing condition, save tools and weapons; but, the cutler’s knives and axes were sharp and bright, the smith’s hammers were heavy, and the gun-maker’s stock was murderous.” (Dickens, page 34)

This juxtaposition of red wine and blood with hunger and want, and with references to “sharp and bright” knives and axes, heavy hammers, and with the “murderous” gun-maker’s stock, is altogether a foreshadowing of the violence in the impending revolution, when the poor and hungry will finally have their revenge on the rich.

Later in this chapter, we meet not only the Defarges, but also the three “Jacques.” These revolutionaries name themselves after the Jacquerie, a popular peasant revolt in northern France back in the 14th century. The nobles of the time derided these peasants as “Jacques” for the padded surplice, called “jacques” that they wore. The term jacquerie became synonymous with peasant uprisings in both France and England thereafter.

I don’t know if there’s a direct connection in meaning between the kind of Jacques the French nobility were scorning in the 14th century and the “sly, insinuating Jacks” (I, iii, 53) that Richard III was railing against in Shakespeare’s play, but there’s an interesting association that can be made in the “Jacques” of Dickens’s novel trading positions of power with the 18th century French nobility and the Duke of Gloucester’s contempt for such people of low birth when he famously says, “The world is grown so bad/That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch./Since every Jack became a gentleman/There’s many a gentle person made a Jack.” (I, iii, 70-73).

Meanwhile, Madame Defarge is typically seen knitting (see Book Two, Chapters 15 and 16 in particular). She will be a tricoteuse during the guillotine executions, doing her knitting there. This knitting symbolically suggests an association with the Fates, who in their spinning determined everyone’s life and death. Since Defarge is also seen knitting long before the revolution and its Reign of Terror, this early knitting is a foreshadowing of the violence to come.

She encrypts the names of those to be executed into her knitting, again connecting her with the Fates, but also, in a way, with Penelope, who wove a shroud while waiting ever so patiently for her husband, Odysseus, to come home and kill all of her suitors, who were eating her out of house and home. Madame Defarge, as she knits, is also waiting ever so patiently for the violent overthrow of those who, like Penelope’s suitors, have done violence of one form or another to her home (more on that later).

To jump ahead in Dickens’s story, we encounter the first time Carton saves Darnay, who is on trial for treason against the British Crown, by simply demonstrating to the court his uncanny physical resemblance to the accused. The witnesses, two spies, claim that they could pick Darnay out from any man; but their testimony is undermined by Carton’s likeness to him.

The doubles share more in common than just their looks. They share some sense of shame, Darnay’s by his association with his uncle, the wicked Marquis St. Evrémonde, and Carton by his life as a drunken wastrel. Both men redeem themselves: Darnay, by renouncing his uncle’s family and changing his name from Evrémonde to an Anglicizing of D’Aulnais (his mother’s maiden name); and Carton, by taking Darnay’s name and place in La Force Prison, from which he’s to be taken and guillotined, the former thus sacrificing his life to save that of the latter.

Yet another duality is to be found in the two systems of class oppression portrayed in A Tale of Two Cities–namely, the outgoing feudalist one and the incoming capitalist one. Though the revolutionaries, the left-wingers, were hoping for a genuinely new society based on the principles of liberté, égalité, fraternité, this was a bourgeois, not a socialist, revolution. It was good that feudal France was no more, but a new form of class struggle was about to be born.

The despicable decadence of feudal times is personified in the unnamed aristocrat known as “Monseigneur.” In Chapter 7 of Book Two, we learn that he needs no less than four men, in “gorgeous decoration,” to get his morning’s chocolate into his mouth (Dickens, page 114)

The cruelties of feudalism, however, are personified in the marquis, whose carriage runs over a little boy, killing him. The marquis’s reaction to the death he’s caused is beyond insensitive: to compensate Gaspard, the dead boy’s grieving father, the marquis tosses him a gold coin and drives on. Gaspard will kill him in revenge, hide out for a year, then be hanged for murder.

The chateau of the marquis is vividly described in terms of the wickedness of the man who lives in it. The first paragraph of Book Two, Chapter 9, “The Gorgon‘s Head,” repeatedly uses the word “stone” or “stony” to describe so much of the marquis’s property as to suggest that Medusa‘s head had turned everything to stone two hundred years prior. This emphasis on stoniness, of course, reflects the marquis’s stony heart, just as the petrifying ugliness of the Gorgon’s head is a mirror to his moral ugliness.

It is this ugliness of feudal France that is the context in which the ugliness of revolutionary violence must be understood. Dickens’s tone, during his narration of all of the events from the storming of the Bastille to the Reign of Terror, gives the clear impression that he considered the actions of the revolutionaries to be no less evil than those of their former feudal oppressors.

As with A Christmas Carol, the Dickens who was otherwise thoroughly sympathetic to the poor is in this novel showing what we today would call peak liberalism.

For my part, I’m ambivalent about the wrongs the revolutionaries committed. Their main fault resides in ultimately leaving France with a new system of economic exploitation–capitalism–to replace the old system. The Defarges, after all, are the petite bourgeois owners of a wine shop. As for the violence of the revolutionaries, what can I say? Recall Mao’s words: “A revolution is not a dinner party.”

Were there excesses of violence? Undoubtedly. But revolutions are by definition chaotic, bloody, and messy. The oppressing class can’t be voted or legislated away…they can only be violently overthrown, for they will undermine every attempt to tax them or rein in their power over us. French revolutionary violence was, properly understood, a reaction to centuries of violence done to a starving, wretched populace of peasants.

As for Madame Defarge, her violent excesses may be wrong, but they’re perfectly explicable. Her sister was raped by Darnay’s uncle; her brother confronted the uncle about the rape and was run through with the uncle’s sword. Both her brother and sister died after the best, though failed, efforts of Dr. Manette, who was imprisoned for attempting to report the crimes, and who wrote of them in a manuscript in his cell. Having found the manuscript, which denounces the whole Evrémonde family, Madame Defarge uses it to avenge her dead siblings by trying to destroy not only Darnay, but his whole family, too.

She was “imbued from her childhood with a brooding sense of wrong, and an inveterate hatred of a class, opportunity had developed her into a tigress. She was absolutely without pity. If she had ever had the virtue in her, it had quite gone out of her.

“It was nothing to her that an innocent man was to die for the sins of his forefathers; she saw, not him, but them.” (Book Three, Chapter 14, page 402)

One set of excesses tends to lead to an opposing set of excesses, like the teeth of the ouroboros biting into its tail, a symbol of the dialectical relationship between opposites that I’ve used many times. Since we don’t like riots, we should recall MLK’s words: “A riot is the language of the unheard.” Similarly, if you don’t like revolutionary bloodshed, you should bear in mind that such bloody excesses are the words of those who have hitherto been silenced by their oppressors, often spoken in gory fashion.

Madame Defarge is motivated by revenge, personified in one of the other revolutionary women, known literally as The Vengeance. She is the “shadow” of Madame Defarge, a darkness within darkness. All of those who have suffered under feudal rule have been in darkness, such as Doctor Manette in his shadowy prison cell, and in the garret of the Defarges’ wine shop where he is found obsessively making shoes (Chapter 5, The Wine Shop). So when the revolutionaries have their revenge, they put men like Darnay in the darkness of cells in La Force, too. Indeed, his second arrest occurs at night.

Lucie’s light is in dialectical contrast to Madame Defarge’s darkness. The former says of the latter, “that dreadful woman seems to throw a shadow on me and on all my hopes.” (Book Three, Chapter 3, The Shadow, page 298) Her light, symbolized by each golden thread of her hair, pulls her father out of the dark. (Book One, Chapter 6, The Shoemaker, pages 47-49)

Elsewhere, we have Jerry Cruncher, the “resurrection man” who raids graves in the darkness, and is thus a dark parody of the real resurrection man, Carton, who by taking on Darnay’s identity recalls him to life, bringing him out of that dark cell and into the light, to be reunited with the light of his life, Lucie.

Thus Jerry, a nasty fellow who abuses his wife early on in the story, is the darkness to Carton’s light. Before he is to be guillotined, Carton compares his fate to that of Christ. He quotes the Gospel according to John: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” (John 11:25) Carton, as a Christ-figure, dies so Darnay can live. In this we see the dialectical relationship between life and death in Dickens’s novel. Recall in this connection another important quote from John: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Though Carton loves Lucie, he knows he can never have her. After all, light doesn’t sit with light, but rather with its dialectical opposite: darkness. Carton will go into the darkness of Darnay’s cell so the latter can go out into Lucie’s light.

And while darkness and light are intertwined, so are life and death. Having approached the guillotine, Carton imagines a future world, one long after his death, in which Darnay and Lucie will name a son after Carton. He can “see the lives for which [he] lay[s] down [his] life,” (Dickens, page 417) and in his prophetic visions, as well as the son, Carton has his own resurrection, his own recalling to life after death.

Speaking of ‘resurrections,’ though, another resurrection can be seen today as compared with what was going on back in Dickens’s day and before: the exacerbated immiseration of the poor. A Tale of Two Shitties: the shittiness of Dickens’s time, and the shittiness of our world ever since the dissolution of the socialist states. In this, we see yet another duality: class conflict then, and class conflict now.

Dickens, sympathetic to the plight of the poor but horrified at revolutionary violence, was using this novel to warn the rich of the danger of aggravating class conflict to the point of provoking such violence. When one considers the extremes of income inequality today, as well as all these unending imperialist wars, climate change, and how fear of disease is a distraction from the contemplation of revolution, one would think the ruling class would be heeding Dickens’s warning.

Instead, would-be leftists virtue signal in such ways as AOC wearing a dress with the message “TAX THE RICH” (of which Dickens would have approved) while ignoring protestors outside the Met Gala. In some photos of that dress, the T in TAX isn’t really showing, a kind of fortuitous prophecy. Then there was that small guillotine set by the front door of Bezos’s mansion.

May the Evrémondes everywhere in the world watch out.

The modern-day Madame Defarge is doing her knitting.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Collins Classics, London, 1859

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Seven

The following week, the carriers and sympathizers had their next meeting in the basement of the gym, chaired by their new leader, George Villiers-Joseph. His close friend and associate, Karol Sargent, sat by him as he stood at the podium.

George’s bodyguards were double the number that Lenny Van der Meer had had, for obvious reasons. Though George tried to keep everyone’s spirits as raised as possible, there was an undeniable energy of paranoia spread throughout the room.

“Comrades, brothers, and sisters,” he began with a big smile under that moustache. “Now that we have mourned our fallen from last week, and have determined that, beyond a reasonable doubt, Karen Finley acted alone in perpetrating the tragedy last week…”

Peter and Michelle took a quick glance at Tory, who sat to their left, to see his reaction to George’s words. He seemed unaffected, paying close attention to every syllable that came out of George’s mouth.

“…we can finally turn the page of that sad chapter in our community’s history, and look ahead with cautious optimism to our future,” George went on. “First, I’ll discuss our progress, then, our challenges. Not only have we made significant reversals in rising sea levels and flooding here in South America, but also in the City-States of Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. Wildfires around the world have been fewer, too, thanks to Bolshivarian efforts. The ruling classes of the Earth have actually stopped interfering with us in these areas: not out of a spirit of goodwill or compassion, but because they plan that, once the whole Earth has been rejuvenated, their big business/governments can resume raping the Earth and profiting from such ravaging to the maximum.”

Tory leaned over to Peter’s ear. “This is part of where I must criticize George,” he said. “As soon as the healing of the Earth is finished, the capitalists will start destroying it again. I believe we should crush the capitalists first, all of them, then repair the Earth, when there won’t be anyone else to harm her again.”

“What was that?” Michelle asked.

“He was just saying he doesn’t like how George is managing things,” Peter told her.

“Why?” she asked. “Don’t all Bolshivarians have the same agenda, no matter who the leader is, Tory?”

“The Bolshivarian consciousness merges with the human brain of the carrier,” Tory said. “Just as the limitations of the human mind affect the Bolshivarians’ judgement, so do the biases of the human personality affect it. I think George’s personality might not be suited to lead our cause.”

Frowning, the three of them resumed listening to George.

“So we have done a good job of cooling the planet and eliminating pollution, too,” George said. “We’ve also made considerable progress in teaching South Americans about our advances in medical technology, healing the sick here, educating the people in general, providing housing and employment, and replacing fossil fuels with solar and wind energy.”

“All wastes of time and energy,” Tory whispered. “Revolution first.”

Peter turned his head slightly towards Tory when he heard that.

“So, that was the good news,” George said. “Now for the challenges we face. We have begun training and preparing the people, carrier and non-carrier alike, for the imminent invasion by UCSA and NATO forces, all the military divisions of their multinational corporations.”

“Now, that’s more like it, George,” Tory said. “Keep the revolution unending ’til we win.”

Peter and Michelle smiled at those words.

“We have plans to protect ourselves and survive a nuclear attack if it comes to that,” George went on. “We have been largely successful in the war in Africa, despite heavy Bolshivarian losses, repelling the fighter jets and bug spray attacks from drones, so we should have similar successes here in South America if they try attacking us that way.”

The energy of the room was improving.

“Finally, as you can see here, I have doubled my security in case of another treasonous attack,” George said. “The Bolshivarian lights you all see floating over your heads are monitoring the thoughts of everyone in the audience, as I speak. Have no fear: if your intentions are good, you’ll be perfectly safe.”

I don’t like the sou– Peter began to think, then, looking up, thought, Shut up, brain.

“And in the event of my death,” George went on, “my good friend, Comrade Karol Sargent, will take my place as leader.”

Tory’s eyes lit up at the sound of those words.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Six

Peter and Michelle went with Tory Lee to his home right after the meeting in the gym that night. His home was across the road from the gym, but on the side opposite to that of Peter’s and Michelle’s apartment. That he needed human company was obvious after what had happened to Karen only an hour before.

“Thank you for taking me home and being here with me,” Tory said, in a state of emotional exhaustion. “It’s gonna be rough, being all alone now. It’s good to have friends.”

“It’s also good no longer to be probed by Bolshivarians,” Peter said, with more than a hint of annoyance, as the three of them went through the front door. “Oh, those little lights passing into our brains like that, monitoring our every thought and feeling, searching for signs of treasonous ideas in our heads! It felt like being strip-searched, standing naked before the Bolshivarians, only it was our minds instead of our bodies. That was awful! They have no respect for our privacy.” They passed through the kitchen.

“I had only grief in my thoughts,” Tory said. “I couldn’t think of anything else if I tried. The Bolshivarians wouldn’t have found any treasonous thoughts in my mind, even if I’d actually had them hiding in the deepest shadows of my unconscious. They’d never have found them even if they’d tried their damnedest, and if they were actually there. Still, that was a horrible ordeal, especially after…Karen’s…” He began to sob.

“I’ll admit that that was the worst thirty minutes I’ve been through since my mom was killed,” Michelle said as they came into the living room. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that, Tory, especially after…what happened to Karen. Still, as hard as it was, I can understand why the Bolshivarians wanted to test our loyalty. They’re grieving over their losses just as we’re grieving over Karen. The pain of losing Cameron must have been too much for her.”

“It drove her mad, I hate to say,” Tory said as all three of them stood before shelves on a wall with a number of photos of him, Karen, and Cameron at various ages on them. “I knew she found Cameron’s loss overwhelmingly painful, but I’d never have guessed she’d had revenge on her mind. It wasn’t in her nature–isn’t in mine.”

As they walked through his living room, Peter noticed Tory’s desktop computer. Peter bumped his hip against the desk, and the monitor lit up, showing video editing software.

Next to the computer desk was a bookshelf. Peter gave it a quick scan, seeing these titles: The Revolution Betrayed, Animal Farm, Brave New World, The New Class, Nineteen Eighty-Four, In Defence of Marxism, Conversations With Stalin, The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany, Down and Out in Paris and London, and Island.

“It was tough losing Cameron those two years ago,” Tory said. “But I always understood that getting rid of the corrupt, capitalist governments of the world was necessary. Nobody, and I mean nobody in the Western world has any revolutionary potential, and that’s where the revolution has to come from. Nobody here in the Third World has the wherewithal to make revolution happen. It has to come from the richer parts of the world…and the people in our parts of the world–New York City for Karen and me–are too damn comfortable, too complacent, with our computers and cellphones, to rise up.”

“I agree,” Peter said. “Michelle and I are from the Toronto and Mississauga Districts, and we’re far too comfortable, too smug and self-satisfied, to do anything about the corruption in the world.”

“Though I lost my son, I’m still grateful that the Bolshivarians came. They are providing the revolutions we need to keep happening, to save the world. They merge with the minds of the people, and when the people accept the new way, the Bolshivarians can give them the impetus to become revolutionaries. Cameron should have seen the light–he wouldn’t, so the lights sawed him…to pieces.” He broke down and cried again.

Now they’ve sawn Karen to pieces, Michelle thought. Still, that’s what you get for turning traitor, not that I’d ever say that to poor Tory. “Again, I’m so sorry, Tory.” She hugged him and kissed him on the cheek.

Tory regained control and said, “Now, I’m not without my criticisms of the Bolshivarians. I’d watch what George is about to do, if I were you, now that he’s the new leader. I wish he’d focus on causing more and more uprisings around the world, which he seems less inclined to do, as I’ve learned from conversations with him over the months. I disagree with his direction for us. We can rebuild the world after tearing down the old system. We don’t have time for rebuilding right now.”

“I have my share of criticisms of the Bolshivarians, too,” Peter said. “But they won’t kill us for that.”

“They never kill us,” Michelle said. “We let ourselves die for not accepting the new way.”

Peter sighed in annoyance at these words.

“It’s true,” Tory said. “Karen wouldn’t accept the new way. If only she’d been able to control her grief.”

“I know,” Michelle said with a sigh. “It was hard for Peter and me to accept the new way, too, after the deaths of his parents and my dad, and my mom killed by a government agent in Canada; but there are greater issues to deal with than just our personal problems and our families.”

“That’s right,” Tory said. “We mustn’t lose sight of that. We must all pull together, or else man is going to destroy the planet with war, global warming, and the kind of poverty we see all around us in this city, with its beggars on the streets and its slums and barrios. We can’t afford to be selfish, the way the oligarchs are, caring only about their families and not about the families of the rest of the world. If only Karen…could have understood better…” He broke down again and wept.

“And the Bolshivarians psychically grilled him, as if he were a Nazi war criminal or something,” Peter said.

“They had to, Peter!” Michelle said.

“Right at the height of Tory’s trauma and grief?”

“They’re grieving for their own, too!” she said.

“She’s right,” Tory sobbed. “As hard as it was, they were justified in their suspicions. She was my wife; they had to make sure I’m not a traitor, too. For all they knew, I could have been plotting assassinations with her. I wasn’t, of course, but they didn’t know.”

Peter sighed. “Well, I guess so.”

“Anyway, I’m pretty exhausted,” Tory said. “The only thing I can do now is sleep off this sadness. You both can go home now. I’ll bet you’re really tired, too.”

“Yeah, we are, but will you be OK?” Peter asked.

“Oh, yes, I’ll be fine. I just need some time.”

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Don’t worry about me. You’ve already done a lot for me by coming here. Good night, and thanks again.”

“OK, Tory, good night,” she said as she and Peter left the living room and approached the front door. “If you need anything, just call us.”

“OK,” Tory said. “Good night.”

“Bye,” Peter said, and he and Michelle left.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Five

The night of the next day, Lenny Van der Meer chaired another meeting in the gym basement. George Villiers-Joseph sat by him while he stood at the podium.

Peter and Michelle sat with Tory, who came alone.

“Where’s Karen?” Michelle asked.

“Oh, she decided to stay home tonight,” Tory said with a frown. “She told me she wasn’t feeling well.”

“Oh, that’s too bad,” Michelle said. “I hope she gets better soon.”

“Thanks,” he said. “She’s been acting funny the last couple of days. Moping, depressed, angry.”

“Why’s that?” Michelle asked. “Is it frustration with the growing military threat here?”

“She wouldn’t say,” he said with a sigh. “I asked her, and she remained all quiet and morose. I imagine it’s the fear of another war, like in Africa, but if so, she surely would have just told me. She seems to be burying her feelings so deep down, even I can’t figure out what’s bothering her. She still grieves over our boy Cameron, but so do I, and I’m carrying on OK, as you can see.”

“Doesn’t she get any comfort from communing with his psychic energy?” Michelle asked. “I get that every night from the spirits of my mom and dad.”

“You’d think she’d get such comfort, but I suspect she doubts that the apparitions of Cameron, his energy, is real,” Tory said. “I don’t doubt its reality; she’s never said she doubts it, but I suspect she does. In any case, I really don’t know.”

“Lenny’s about to start,” Peter whispered.

“Friends, brothers, and sisters,” Van der Meer began, “recently, there has been an alarming set of developments. The United City-States of America and their NATO allies are growing more and more aware of our activities here. Not only do they know of our attempts to reverse the flooding in the Rio de Janeiro area–you may have seen the video of the Bolshivarian confrontation with Lloyd’s army division yesterday, which the UCSA doctored to make it look as if we were worsening the flooding.”

“Oh, yes, that,” Tory said. “That was despicable propaganda.”

“Yes,” Peter said, “I saw the original video online.”

“Me, too,” Tory said.

“Guys, let’s listen,” Michelle said.

“Also, our enemies learned that we’ve infiltrated the Exxon-Mobile army base here in Puerto Ayacucho. They discovered the mutilated remains of Sergeant Dan Miller, who refused to join us as Captain Finch and Sergeant West had. Both Finch and West were discovered…and killed. All the Bolshivarians housed in their bodies were slain with the toxins in the bug spray.”

A mournful energy permeated the basement during the next several seconds. Lenny and George appeared on the verge of tears.

“But none of this, as regretful as it is, is the worst,” Lenny went on. “Just as we’ve had to endure a year of war in Africa, so will we have to prepare for it here. Recall also the thinly-veiled nuclear threat. We must be steeled and ready.”

In a corner of the basement, about two o’clock from where Lenny was standing, were stacks of chairs and tables piled high enough to create a shadow large enough to hide someone. From that shadow, a hand holding a pistol emerged.

No one was paying attention to it.

Least of all, Lenny’s bodyguards.

All eyes were on him.

“We must continue watching out for any danger,” Lenny said. “The UCSA and NATO have spies everywhere. Someone informed them of our hideout in Angola, recall–that warehouse.”

And our hotel in Luanda, Peter and Michelle remembered.

“Now, we assume that the spies in Angola weren’t among us during our meetings,” Lenny cautioned. “But however unlikely it may be, it isn’t impossible for one of our people here, a non-carrier who pretends to be a sympathizer, even consciously thinks like one, to evade Bolshivarian detection, by burying their feelings deep down–“

Just as the shooter of that pistol was burying her feelings.

The bullet shot through Lenny’s left side diagonally from the back and into his heart. He fell to the floor to the right of the podium. The balls of light left his body as quickly as his blood began to flow.

A sea of screams flooded the basement. Everyone stood up to get a look where the shot had come from. The lights leaving Lenny’s body flew right over to that corner to get their revenge.

“You killed my son!” the assassin screamed as she emerged from the shadows spraying bug spray at the lights.

“Oh, my God!” Tory screamed as he looked over to that shady corner. “Karen…NOOO!!!

Michelle put her arms around him, saying, “Tory, don’t look.”

Indeed, he wouldn’t be able to bear seeing his wife’s body torn to pieces, so he closed his eyes tight and let the tears roll down his cheeks.

Karen resisted the Bolshivarians as best she could at first, aiming her shaking pistol arm at George, but firing two bullets into the ceiling before dropping it. The hand holding the bug spray was more successful, hitting the first dozen of Lenny’s dots of light and dropping them to bounce lifeless on the stage.

Other Bolshivarians managed to evade the toxins and enter her. Michelle and Peter watched in horror as Karen’s body ripped through her dress and explode in a huge splash of blood. Michelle held Tory’s shaking body tight as he wept.

Was she the one who told the UCSA army where our hotel in Luanda was? Peter wondered. We told her about it.

George stepped up to the podium as Lenny’s bodyguards picked up his body and carried it away.

“We must have order!” George said, his eyes wet with tears. It was difficult for him to keep from sobbing. “We will bury…our comrades, Lenny and the Bolshivarians…who inhabited his body, and we will honour them all. But this act of treason…instead of distracting us from our cause, must keep us focused on it. We must prepare for war, and immediately.”

“What of our other projects?” a carrier standing at the front of the audience asked. “The quenching of wildfires, the reversing of flooding, the providing of healthcare to the poor?”

“Fear not, Karol,” George said. “Our preparations for war will not retard our progress in those areas by the slightest bit.”

“And who are the friends or family of the traitor?” Karol asked, looking back at the audience. “She was one of the non-carrier ‘sympathizers,’ was she not?”

“Yes,” George said, also looking out at the audience and frowning. “We will investigate the matter immediately.”

A swarm of dots of light flew right at Peter, Michelle, and Tory.

The Third Poem from Jason Ryan Morton’s Book, ‘Diverging Paths’

Here’s another poem from Jason Ryan Morton’s collection of poetry and prose, Diverging Paths. As anyone who has read my blog posts knows, I’ve written about my Facebook friend’s poetry many times. Again, I’ve set his writing in italics to distinguish it from mine. Here’s the poem:

I hate it all, 
Can I watch it die, 
Fading embers, 
Of a burning sky, 
Call me, 
To be nothing but what I am,
 

Every fucking day is the same, 
Breaking me apart, 
Too dark to start, 
Can’t hit the Wall, 

break the design, a
pattern of time, 
Is unheard and underlying, 
Maladies return me to the death of my humanity,
 

O Lord I am broken, 
My soul tattered and shattered,
 

Too a point nothing fucking matters, 
And all the dreams are lies, I kiss
my Deliverance goodbye, And yet
it seems,
 

I am me, 
But broken, 
Where no vessel should be, 
I am nothing, I …. 


Will not bother, I….. Will not bow, 
I….. 
Will not scrape, 


I am nothing, 
But at least I’m me,

And now for my analysis.

The poet would “watch it die,” the “Fading embers/Of a burning sky,” that “Call [him],”… He seems to be referring to the religious authority represented by God in the sky, which is “burning” because the validity of that authority is “fading”. Having been abused by it, he would happily “watch it die.”

In “Every fucking day is the same,” the use of the word fucking doesn’t seem to be just gratuitous swearing. I’ve learned from his life that he was a victim of sexual abuse, something kids often suffer in Catholic institutions, for which the perpetrators all too often go unpunished. Feeling the effects of the trauma is an every day thing, hence “Maladies return [him] to the death of [his] humanity.”

The poet calls out to God for help, “O Lord I am broken,” but that God isn’t there to help him, because here God is just the idol of institutionalized religion, rather than representative of any genuine spirituality…”all the dreams are lies.”

“Too a point nothing fucking matters” should be seen as a pun on too and to. Nothing matters to a point, but his problem is, too, a point, the point of the rapist’s phallus. Again, fucking isn’t gratuitous swearing. He kisses his “Deliverance” goodbye, because there is no deliverance, yet the capitalized D implies an allusion to the film and novel featuring the rape of a man. The deliverance of the Church, resulting all too often in the sexual abuse of children, is mere deliverance into another kind of hell.

He is broken, so he calls himself nothing, since part of the trauma he feels makes him devalue himself. In spite of his pain, though, there is some defiance against his abusers. He “will not bow,” and “will not scrape.” Society devalues him, yet “at least” he’s sincerely himself, not the kind of phoney person that society favours.

The aligning of the first half of the text to the right, where the focus is on the cause of his suffering, versus the aligning of the second half of the text to the left, mostly his reaction to his suffering, as well as his defiance to it, suggests the right-wing authoritarianism of the Church versus his left-wing aspiration to be liberated from such authority.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Three

The afternoon of the next day, Peter and Michelle were in their apartment across the road from the gym in the basement of which they’d attended the meeting with Lenny and George.

They went into the living room. “Let’s see what’s on the news,” Michelle said, reaching for the remote and sitting next to Peter on the sofa. “After what Lenny said about heightened military presences in South America, I’m a little worried. They might know about the carriers in the military base on the other side of town.”

She turned on the TV and switched it to CNN. President Price was in the middle of another press conference.

“So, the status in Africa has still shown no signs of improvement?” a reporter asked her.

“I wish I could say we have seen such signs, but sadly, no,” Price said. “Our attempts to wipe out the alien menace in Africa have been, to be perfectly blunt, frustrating. We manage to kill so many of them, yet thousands of those little lights rise up to take their places.”

“Making friends with them, of course, is out of the question,” Peter said.

Michelle frowned at him, wishing he’d remain quiet during the press conference.

“What’s worse, there are more and more reports that the aliens are being spotted taking over populations in Latin America and Southeast Asia. Just yesterday afternoon, an administrative clerk in a base in Venezuela suddenly went missing, though he was known to have arrived for work that morning. There was no reason for him to disappear, so already there are suspicions that that base has been compromised. We may have to send troops there to confront the alien menace.”

“Oh, my God,” Michelle said. “Could that be the same base here, the one Lenny was talking about last night?”

“Could be,” Peter said.

“If our suspicions about all these reports are true,” Price said, “I must stress that the international community will not and cannot tolerate this growing threat to our interests.”

“Of course not,” Peter said. “If the Bolshivarians keep on taking control of everything, the ‘international community’ can no longer make money from all the oil it sucks out of Venezuela.”

“Shh!” Michelle said. “We’ve gotta listen.”

“Defeating this menace, I’m afraid, will require more radical, sweeping action than what we’ve used up to this point,” Price said.

“You’ve said ‘radical’ and ‘sweeping’ a number of times over the past year, Madame President,” another reporter said. “But you never elaborate on that. What exactly might these ‘radical’ and ‘sweeping’ measures entail? How much longer are we going to hear that they are classified?”

“Well,” Price began with a sigh and a pause, “I’m not saying we’re going to use nuclear weapons…”

“Oh, my God!” Michelle gasped.

“…but that option is not being ruled out any more,” the president went on. “If, and I do mean if, it is ever considered, I assure the world that it will be only as a last resort…and an extremely last resort at that…”

“It’s extreme, all right,” Peter said with a sneer.

“…one I’d be loathe to have to use,” Price went on, “but one we can no longer dismiss as a possible solution.”

“You bitch,” Peter hissed.

“Could we dismiss you as a possible solution, Madame President?” Michelle said.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter Two

“Friends, brothers, and sisters, thanks for attending tonight’s meeting,” Lenny Van der Meer said to all the carriers and sympathizers sitting in attendance, including Peter, Michelle, Tory, and Karen. They were in the spacious basement of a gym on the opposite side of town from that military base, on the night of the same day as the incident with Miller. “Before I begin our discussion of our recent progress, I’d like to introduce my second-in-command.” Lenny gestured to a large man with short brown hair and a moustache. “This is George Villiers-Joseph, who in the event of my death will be your new leader. Trust him as you would trust me.”

George stood up, and everyone clapped for him. Michelle clapped enthusiastically with the carriers and most of the non-carrying sympathizers in attendance; Peter, Tory, and Karen clapped politely, but not so enthusiastically. George sat down.

“Now, let’s begin,” Lenny said. “As you know, our plan has been to take control of South America, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, but far more surreptitiously than had been the case with Africa, which was taken almost in a panic, upon the world learning of our presence as extraterrestrials rather than as a virus. If only we hadn’t taken Africa in such a rushed, clumsy way, we might have avoided the war that’s been going on there for the past year, and prevented so many deaths on our side.”

At one point, Michelle’s eyes drifted over to Karen, who seemed distracted. Instead of listening to Lenny, she was watching his bodyguards. Michelle furrowed her brow, then turned her eyes back to him.

“Much progress has been made,” Lenny continued. “We’ve made inroads in controlling the Exxon-Mobil base on the other side of this city earlier today. We’ve become better able to stop and reverse flooding in many parts of South America. We’re controlling the wildfires at the edges of the rainforest and on the savannahs without arousing suspicion among the UCSA and NATO militaries. But mistakes have been made elsewhere on the continent. A heightened military presence in Quito, in the form of the Chiquita Brands International armed forces, in Santiago’s Codelco military branch, the military division in Buenos Aires’s British American Tobacco, and Tesla’s military in La Paz, have all been provoked by sloppy attempts by our comrades to pass on our Bolshivarian light to those in the city-state governments/corporations, and among some in their corporate militaries.”

Michelle looked over at Karen again. She still seemed to be interested more in Lenny’s bodyguards than in his words.

“This clumsiness, I’m sorry to say, has been the inevitable result of our Bolshivarian consciousness being merged with, no offence to our non-carrying sympathizers, the limitations of the human mind.”

“Oh, no offence taken,” Peter snorted. “Arrogant little glowing bastards. They’re so superior to us.”

“Well, aren’t they?” Michelle whispered. “If it weren’t for their medical superiority, we’d be dead in Luanda, wouldn’t we?”

Peter’s only reply was a scowl that acknowledged her point.

She then took a third look over at Karen, who was still watching the bodyguards while Tory was listening to Lenny with a grin of contentment. “Karen? What is it? Why are you always watching Lenny’s bodyguards?”

“Hmm?” Karen said in confused surprise at Michelle’s question. “Oh, I’m just worried that Lenny’s security might not be tight enough. He needs more men, I’d say.” She let out a little giggle.

“Oh,” Michelle said, then resumed listening to Lenny.

“Still, it would be unfair to blame all our flaws on the human brain; much of the fault of our mistakes is our own,” Lenny said. “We’re not perfect. We’re only Bolshivarian, after all.”

This got a few chuckles from the non-carrier listeners.

“Anyway,” Lenny went on, “we must keep aware of any new developments. Watch the news, as biased against us as the media is, and find online videos showing what we’re doing to help the people, where we’re succeeding and failing. We must be prepared to react to any new problems and challenges as they arise.”

Yes, Michelle thought. We need to know what that bitch Price is planning against us.

I really want to believe the Bolshivarians are sincere when they say they are working to help people here, Peter thought. Over the next few days, I’ll be looking for those online videos on my phone…if they exist.

‘Complete,’ a New Poem by Jason Ryan Morton

Here’s a new poem by my Facebook friend, Jason Ryan Morton, whose work I’ve looked at many times before. This one is another one with a happier theme–love. Again, I’ll put his words in italics to distinguish them from mine. Here’s the poem:

I ran into the mirror
Fell right through
Woke up without eyes
But could see you
You were brighter than the moon
You smiled I swooned
Kissed your lips with my finger tips
I wrote our love sonnet
Upon your flesh
Awoke with a Memory
And a belief
That today we may be strangers
We will meet one day
And we shall be
Complete

And now, for my analysis.

Note the relationship between running into a mirror and seeing the person he loves. When we see a mirror, we see ourselves, of course; but mirrors can be metaphorical, too. The mirror in the Lacanian sense can be a metaphor for the face of another looking back at you, an idealized version of yourself, or an idealized parent looking back at you, mirroring your love back to you.

The Oedipal relationship with the idealized parent gets transferred onto someone that one later falls in love with. The poet “fell right through” (i.e., in love) and “could see” his love “without eyes,” because as we know, love is blind. His love was “brighter than the moon,” the same moon that was envious of her maid, the sun Juliet, for being far fairer than she (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene ii, lines 2-10).

Another indirect reference to Shakespeare can be found in the poet having written their “love sonnet.” They “will meet one day/And…shall be/Complete.” This is the lifelong drive to attain the idealized state of the object seen in the mirror (the “Memory” from one’s first childhood experience of looking into the mirror and establishing a sense of self…a repressed, unconscious memory), to try to be as perfect as the image one sees on the other side, with whom one feels a stranger. To have one’s love, projected into and embodied in that other person.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book III, Chapter One

2032, Puerto Ayacucho, Amazonas, Venezuela

Sergeant Dan Miller, of the United City States Army, Exxon-Mobil Division, saluted Captain Finch as both of them were about to enter their office in their nine-year-old military installation. Both men had coffees in their hands, and they’d just finished lunch.

“Did you have a good lunch, sir?” Miller asked as his saluting hand came down.

“Yes, I did, Dan,” Finch said as his came down and they entered. “How about you?”

“Oh, fine, sir. I must say, I like the food here much better than I did in the Samsung base in Seoul, where I was posted a couple years ago. I hate kimchi, but the corn, rice, and beans here are a lot better. I’m so glad we kicked all the commies out of this place, that old Maduro government, and that Exxon-Mobil is running things in Caracas.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Finch said, looking away and his smile fading. “This whole continent is our backyard. We have far better use for the locals’ oil reserves than they do. Anyway, have those reports on my desk by 1400J.”

“Yes, sir,” Miller said, and went over to the filing cabinet, which was on the wall opposite to Finch’s office, where Finch went in and closed the door.

A minute later, Sergeant Judy West, of the Shell Oil Company’s air force, entered the office. “Good afternoon, Sergeant,” she said.

“Hi, Sergeant,” he said, looking away from his files. “How can I help you today?”

“Oh, I was just wondering if you were aware of any reports of alien activity here in Amazonas.”

“Not much of anything,” he said. “How’s things going in Africa, with the airstrikes and the drones spraying those glowing little bastards?”

“Well, after a year of it, we’ve killed many of them, but they’ve killed many more of ours,” she said. “At best, it’s been a stalemate; at worst, it could become Vietnam and Afghanistan, all over again.”

“Fuck,” he grunted. “Why can’t the good guys win, for a change?”

“I know how you feel,” she said, looking away and frowning. “Anyway, do you know of any rumours that there could be carriers of the aliens among us? Not necessarily here in this base, but maybe in other bases in South America, American soldiers who could be possessed by those little balls of light?”

“I’ve heard a rumour or two, a few suspicions, but nothing more than that.”

“Can you name any names of suspected military people?” she asked. “Even the vaguest lead could help.”

“No, no names, sorry. I wish I knew some, I really wish I did. I’d love to have an opportunity or two to fuck them up. I hate those sons o’ bitches.”

“Oh, I know the feeling,” she said with a sigh and a scowl. “If you learn of anything, just let me know. Here’s my name card.” She gave it to him.

“Thanks,” he said, taking it and putting it in his pocket. “In the meantime, though, I have my trusty can of bug spray here.” He gestured to it, fastened to his belt, as was standard for all military uniforms. “The very second I see any of them, my first reaction won’t be to call you, understand. Instead, I’ll zap the shiny little cocksuckers. Watch ’em die like the little cockroaches they are.”

“Well, you may encounter them pretty soon in the future,” she said. “We have intelligence that they’re infiltrating the whole Global South: not only here and Africa, but also Southeast Asia.”

“I’d enjoy a chance to kill some of ’em,” he said, with his back to her and looking at his files again. “Bring ’em on.”

“You may get that chance sooner than you think.”

“Oh?”

He looked behind.

His eyes and mouth widened.

Those glowing little bastards were flying from her fingers.

He got out his can of bug spray as quick as lightning and sprayed the half dozen of them that flew out in front. They all fell, tapping and bouncing on the wooden floor beside him.

“You little whore!” he shouted, reaching for a pistol he had hidden in the filing cabinet, in case of alien carrier emergency. He pointed it at her. “Now it’s time for you to die, you alien carrier bitch.”

But before he could pull the trigger, Bolshivarian balls of light were entering him in his back. Shaking and grunting in pain, he pointed the gun up to the ceiling and pulled the trigger.

Click.

He still had the safety on.

Still shaking and grunting, he dropped the gun and fell to the floor. The familiar red cracks were showing all over his face and hands.

Luckily for his assailants, his grunts of pain weren’t loud enough to attract the attention of anyone outside. West and Finch approached Miller, looked down with blank expressions at him from either side of his fidgeting body, and watched him begin to rip apart, tearing holes in his uniform.

“Open the window,” Finch told her. “We need to get the toxins out of the room.”

“Yes, sir,” she said, walking around Miller and the sprayed area to get to the window.

Finch watched as Miller’s flesh was ripping open, exposing his brain, trachea, stomach, bladder, and leg muscles. His ribcage was broken out wide open, like two doors to a welcoming entrance, to expose his heart and lungs. His uniform shirt and pants were in shreds.

The torn-open innards had mouth-like holes formed in them, grunting, “No. No. No. No. Get out. Get out of me.”

“It’s a good thing most of everyone else is still at lunch,” Finch said. “We can’t have anyone seeing this.”

Miller’s body exploded, spraying his blood everywhere. Finch and West dodged the red spray in time, getting only a minimal amount of tiny dots of blood on their uniforms.

“I’ll go outside and use our energy to influence everyone to stay away from this office,” Finch said, heading for the door outside. “Our Bolshivarian technology fortunately can clean up this mess far quicker than human hands. Then we can honour our fallen ones lying there among his body parts.”

“Yes, sir,” she said in a choked-up voice, watching him go out the door.

The remaining balls of light came out of her, careful to keep their distance from the bug spray toxins still in the air. The lights pushed the toxins out the window; then they made the blood disappear off the walls, Miller’s desk, her uniform, and the floor. It was a slow fading away of red, but it was ultimately faster than rags, a bucket of water, and mops would have been.

Once Miller’s body parts were picked up and disposed of, she had time to look at the marble-like balls on the floor, those that used to glow with life.

Before picking them up for burial, she needed a moment to weep for them.