In any of the burial-places of this city through which I pass, is there a sleeper more inscrutable than its busy inhabitants are, in their innermost personality, to me, or than I am to them?

I have a problem understanding the sentence above.

From A TALE OF TWO CITIES by Charles Dickens

2 Answers 2


In simpler prose, Dickens is basically saying this:

Is there any corpse buried in this city that is harder to understand than the living people?

The city is busy, with many people living their lives. But even though these people are bursting with life, it is no easier to read their minds than it is a random corpse. And it's no easier for a random person on the street to read your thoughts either. Parts of our lives will always be solitary.

He's commenting on the absurd loneliness that can be felt even when surrounded by people.


A recurring theme in the works of Dickens, and many other Victorian writers, was the loneliness and isolation that you can experience in the middle of large cities (such as London or Paris), even though you are surrounded by people on all sides. Your sample sentence is saying that it is as difficult to understand the thoughts, motivations and drives of the people who surround you every day as it is to understand the thoughts, motivations and drives of the dead (i.e. sleepers) who occupy the graveyards (i.e. burial places) scattered throughout the city.


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