A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens, Stephen Koch

I finally decided to start reading A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  I have had it on my TBR list forever.  I didn't go to a normal school so I didn't read the classics like most people did.  I have noticed a lot of things I didn't learn.  Some things, like government and economics, was my fault because I wasn't interested in that at the time.  However, other things like Science and English were things I was interested in and finished early and I'm finding so many things I just wasn't taught or were skimmed over so I didn't really learn it well.  Of course, some things I've just forgotten.  

 

I started reading and got stuck right away on the first sentence.  

 

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.

 

su·per·la·tive
səˈpərlədiv/
adjective
 
  1.  
    of the highest quality or degree.
    "a superlative piece of skill"
    synonyms: excellentmagnificentwonderfulmarveloussupremeconsummateoutstandingremarkablefinechoicefirst-rate, first-class, premierprimeunsurpassedunequaledunparalleledunrivaledpreeminent
    informalcrackacewickedbrilliant
    "a superlative photographer"

 

I found someone else who had the same problem I did with understanding the last part of that sentence.  Here is the best answer they were given on Stack Exchange.  

 

"Basically, what he had just finished saying. That people of the day were not ambivalent about their opinion of the times. They loved it or they hated it. There was no middle ground.

By "superlative degree of comparison" he means using the extreme form of the adjective, typically using the -est (fastest) or pairing with the word most (most expensive).

So when he says, "for good or for evil" he means people would only have used these extreme forms to describe the period. But that some would have thought things the best they could be and others would have thought the complete opposite." 

 

I also found this on Cliffnotes.

 

"The year is 1775, and life in England and France seems paradoxically the best and the worst that it can be. The rulers and ruling classes of both countries may have the best of life, but they are out of touch with the common people and believe that the status quo will continue forever."

 

I have a feeling this is going to be a slow read as I look up every line trying to understand it. 

 

I just found this site which explains a lot about the history of the period and helps to explain the text in a way I can better understand.  It is VERY helpful and I really like the pictures of the kings and queens.  

 

con·flate
kənˈflāt/
verb
gerund or present participle: conflating
  1. combine (two or more texts, ideas, etc.) into one.
Source: http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/59190/charles-dickens-for-good-and-for-evil-and-superlative-degree-of-comparison?newreg=38383a62f82c49b6b97492c0dfe7646b