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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.

Would you possibly in a more simple way show me what the bold parts might mean, especially the italic ones?-- although I can translate them in my language but failed to get what is their concept.

Any help would be greatly appreciated

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Whew, you're reading Dickens. A lot of native English speakers can't handle Dickens, so congratulations to you already.

Let me go in order.

We had everything before us...

To "have something before you" means to "have something in front of you," that is to say, the future. Another way to say this is, "We had everything to look forward to, we had nothing to look forward to."

We were going direct to Heaven...

"Heaven" should be clear here, but because heaven is "up", "going direct the other way" is a delicate Victorian way of saying "hell," which is "down." So, "We were all going to heaven, we were all going to hell."

its being received...

Not a simple construction. "To be received" means "to be considered," "to be thought of," etc.

"The superlative degree of comparison" is something you've probably already encountered in learning English. "Best" is the superlative of "good," "highest" is the superlative of "high," etc.

So Dickens is saying that the past was so very different than his own day that the "authorities" of his time, probably historians, would only think of it in extremes, such as "best" or "worst" - with Britain on the "best" side.

To say it another way: ...in short, the period was so different than now that our historians insisted on considering anything good of that time as the absolute best, and anything bad of that time as the absolute worst.

In other words, Dickens uses the end of this sentence to explain the pairs of extremes he began it with (best/worst, wisdom/foolishness, etc.). He's saying, "These are the historians' words, not mine."

Does that help?

  • First off thanks. However, I cannot yet get what the following mean at all. – nima Jan 10 '15 at 18:52
  • its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. – nima Jan 10 '15 at 18:53
  • 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. – nima Jan 10 '15 at 18:53
  • An,d why is he comparing those? – nima Jan 10 '15 at 18:54
  • It's a Tale of Two Cities. He is describing how the two cities are being compared. – oaker Jan 11 '15 at 4:00

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