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(Code & Color Key)

  The Opening Paragraphs of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities
Analysis Key

     It was the best (PN) {of times}, | it was the worst (PN) {of times}, |

it was the age (PN) {of wisdom}, | it was the age (PN)  {of foolishness}, |

it was the epoch (PN) {of belief}, | it was the epoch (PN) {of incredulity}, |

it was the season (PN) {of Light}, | it was the season (PN) {of Darkness}, |

it was the spring (PN) {of hope}, | it was the winter (PN) {of despair}, |

we had everything (DO) {before us}, | we had nothing (DO) {before us}, |

we were all [#1] going direct {to Heaven}, | we were all [#1] going direct the other

way [NuA] | -- {in short}, the period was so far {like the present period} (PA),

[Adv. of result to "so" that some {of its noisiest authorities} insisted {on its being 

received [#2]}, {for good} or {for evil}, {in the superlative degree} {of comparison} only.] |

     There were a king (PN) {with a large jaw} and a queen (PN) {with a plain face},

{on the throne} {of England}; | there were a king (PN) {with a large jaw} and a queen

(PN) {with a fair face}, {on the throne} {of France}. | {In both countries} it was clearer

(PA) [than [#3] crystal] {to the lords} {of the State preserves} {of loaves and fishes}, [ [#4]

that things {in general} were settled (P)  {for ever} ]. |

1. This "all" can be explained as an adverb, but most people will probably see it as modifying the subject, and thus as functioning as a predicate adjective. It is idiomatic, and, although grammarians would spend hours discussing it, such discussion would probably be a waste of your students' time.
2. "Being received" is a gerund that functions as the object of the preposition.
3. If we consider the "than" as a subordinate conjunction rather than as a preposition, the rest of the clause is ellipsed -- "than crystal *is clear.*" Note that the following phrase, "to the lords" is adverbial, either to "was" or to "clearer."
4. This "that" clause functions as the delayed subject to "it was." .