Charles Dickens' novel opens with:

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.

I've been reading lots of different explanations for this opening on English stackexchange and elsewhere. It seems there's no agreement on what it means.

My questions

1- So far like, does it mean "so much like"?

2- What does boldface that mean? Does it introduce result as in "you are so competent that you will definately be hired"

3- Does boldface "its" refer to the period (i.e., the time of the French revolution) or the present period (i.e., the time when the novel was published)?

  • 2
    It was so much like the present period [no comma] that some of the period's noisiest authorities insisted on ...
    – Robusto
    Dec 13, 2017 at 5:34
  • Robusto, thank you. That makes sense. However, the comma seems to be included everywhere, as in Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Tale_of_Two_Cities
    – Sara
    Dec 13, 2017 at 5:40
  • 1
    I mean pretend it's not there.
    – Robusto
    Dec 13, 2017 at 5:45

1 Answer 1


1) You may read "so far like" as "so much like" I think used so far because he is talking about a time period that is moving. It is so far in the past, but so like today.

3) The boldfaced "its" refers to the time period the narrator is referring to. "The best of times the worst of times." That is the time in the past that is so much like the present day.

2) The bold faced that is a linking verb that introduces consequence.

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