Tale Of Two Cities: Character Analysis

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In the book Tale Of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the character Sydney Carton plays a very important role in the book. At first, he is portrayed as an alcoholic no-good and the book even uses the term “jack o” to describe him. Carton often made it clear that he felt as if he had no purpose in life, but when Carton starts to catch feelings for Lucie Manette things start to change. He suddenly starts to have a spark of hope in life and begins to act selfless towards others. However, this ends up costing him his life, when he chooses love over himself.

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In the beginning chapters of this book, Carton is shown as a very lazy, unproactive person. Book 2 Chapter 5 states “Sydney Carton, idlest and most unpromising of men, was Stryver’s great ally. What the two drank together, between Hilary Term and Michaelmas, might have floated a king’s ship. Stryver never had a case in hand, anywhere, but Carton was there, with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ceiling of the court..”. This quote from Tale of Two Cities can show readers how Carton was portrayed. His over drinking on work days, can show how irresponsible he was especially around people like Stryver who can be seen as motivation for these unhealthy habits. When Carton falls in love with a girl named Lucie Manette, everything changes. He expresses himself to her by telling her that she is his last hope. Book 2 Chapter 13 states “ Since I knew you, I have been troubled by a remorse that I thought would never reproach me again, and have heard whispers from old voices impelling me upward, that I thought were silent for ever. I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.” In Carton’s eyes, Lucie Manette was his last chance at restoring a better version of himself. One where he would leave his old habits and become a better person. Through this, he was able to discover that the “good” side of him hadn’t left but instead was encouraging him to expand that part. This is one way that readers can see a significant change in Carton’s actions.

A main conflict that Carton faces throughout the novel is not being able to change. Carton acknowledges his behavior and feels as if his life was simply a waste of time. He thinks that anyone who tries or steps into his life will just be swallowed by the feeling of sadness and sorrow he feels, which is why, when he expresses his feelings to Lucie, he makes it clear that she could never love him. Book 2 Chapter 13 states “If it had been possible, Miss Manette, that you could have returned the love of the man you see before yourself—flung away, wasted, drunken, poor creature of misuse as you know him to be—he would have been conscious this day and hour, in spite of his happiness, that he would bring you to misery, bring you to sorrow and repentance, blight you, disgrace you, pull you down with him.” Carton has given up on trying to fix his life and knows that in the eyes of others he is seen as waste, a drunk etc. However, his love for Lucy is so great that he does the unthinkable to try and erase that image. Lucy’s husband, Charles Darnay, had been locked up wrongfully and had been sentenced to death after facing over a year in jail. Before this, Carton had told Lucie that he was willing to do anything for her and that included giving up his life. Book 2 Chapter 13 states “For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long in coming, when new ties will be formed about you—ties that will bind you yet more tenderly and strongly to the home you so adorn—the dearest ties that will ever grace and gladden you.” Carton sees this as his opportunity to help Lucie and is willing to do whatever it takes no matter the circumstance. Carton decides to switch places with Darnay since their appearance was very similar. It cost him his life. Before his execution, Carton’s mindset was very hopeful and calming which shows readers the significant change in Carton.

Sydney Carton can be identified as the “hero” in this novel. His love for Lucie was so big that he gave up his life so that she would live hers happily. His actions were selfless and helped portray themes in the novel. Two of them being “Necessity of Sacrifice” and “Ever present possibility of Resurrection and Redemption”. Carton presented these by sacrificing himself and attempting a chance to redeem himself through love. By giving up his life, Carton helped the love of his life, Lucie Manette, live happily ever after. From going to being a selfish drunk, Carton ended up being the superhero of the novel.

In conclusion, Sydney Carton is an excellent example of a man who saw that a change needed to be made in his life and made it. He showed readers that love can cause a person to do big things. I chose this character because I believe that he is the character in the book who showed the most important change. He showed me that no matter how bad others think of you or how much self love you lack, you can always make a difference. Carton’s actions showed readers a better version of himself. A selfless, loving, mature and courageous person.  

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