Formal Plot Summary Lucie Manette is a central character in the novel. She tends to affect the characters around her in a brightening manor. For instance she mends her father’s psyche through her unconditional love. Because of her ability to affect others in a liberating sense she attracts other characters such as Stryver, Charles Darnay, and Sydney Carton. She also is able to bring light to the life of family friend Jarvis Lorry. Another way Lucie is central is through her constant placement in “love triangles” the most obvious being Carton and Darnay. A second triangle she finds herself in is between Dr.
Manette and Darnay. Sydney Carton is the protagonist of the novel. He dies by the blade of the guillotine to save Darnay. Carton is introduced in the beginning of the novel as an indifferent, drunkard of a lawyer. He seeks no true meaning to life or find pursuit in attaining any future goals. He is a complex character, because he ends up finding meaning, when he falls in love with Lucie Manette. He works early hours for Stryver while wearing sopping towels. He has thrown away much potential, yet he retains sympathy from people by fulfilling a promise to Lucie.
Another dimension to Sydney Carton is that he is a social outcast. He has no place in the English class system. Yet, when Carton goes to Paris he becomes a new person. He finds fulfillment in life and in his death. Charles Darnay plays the role of romantic lead. He becomes the love interest and eventually the husband of Lucie. Darnay’s real name is revealed to Dr. Mannette in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage—his name is revealed to be St. Evremonde. Darnay is a symbol of sacrifice, when he gives up his home in France to pursue a life in England.
He gives up his old privileges to become a tutor of the French language. Dr. Manette spent eighteen years in jail. To keep his mind in prison, he developed a skill in shoemaking. Dr. Manette suffers from spells of amnesia. Throughout the novel Dr. Manette grows as a character. He develops strength and confidence that he had lost in solitary confinement. An example of this is his ability to reason with the revolutionaries to keep Darnay alive. Five years later Charles Darnay is introduced on the stand of a court house. He is being tried for treason.
Lorry and Lucie testify to save Darnay, but he saved by his Lawyer Stryver. The case that was made to save Darnay was that he could not possibly be spy because of his resemblance to Sydney Carton—an indifferent lawyer. As this is going on, Darnay, proposes to Lucie. They become engaged. Sydney Carton also reveals his love for Lucie. He understand that he cannot have her, so he promises to give his life for anyone sacred to her. While the marriage ceremony is commencing it is told to Dr. Manette that there were hidden papers found in a prison. This event sends Dr. Manette into shock for several days.
Earlier in the day Darnay tells Dr. Manette his true name—Charles St. Evremonde. The French Revolution has now broken out, it is 1789. Defarge has lead an attack on the Bastille while his wife controls the revolutionary women. They burn down everything related with the St. Evremonde name. Gabelle, father of the killed child, is imprisoned. Darnay hears of this tragic event and rushes to France. While he is attempting to help Gabelle, Darnay is seized by revolutionaries as an aristocrat. Dr. Manette has much influence because of his time spent in the Bastille, he is able to visit Darnay, but no free him.
Fifteen months later Darnay is brought up before the French Tribunal. As a result of Dr Manette and Gabelles’ testimonies he is set free. As Darnay is leaving, he is rearrested due to the efforts of Madame and Monsieur Defarge. Sydney Carton appears and informs Travis Lorry. Sydney Carton forces John Basard (he once testified against Darnay) to cooperate with him, or he’d reveal Basards illegal maneuvers of spying on prisoners. The following day Carton goes to visit Darnay, drugs him, and takes his clothes. Carton planned on fulfilling his promise to Lucie.
Barsard rushes Darnay’s unconscious body out of jail to be with his family and flee safely. Madame Defarge goes to Manette’s apartment to kill Lucie, but meets Miss Pross. Miss Pross fights off Defarge who fires the pistol killing herself. Carton meets the guillotine. He is calm and is optimistic of his death. He dies with a face that is at peace. One major conflict in the novel is between Charles Darnay and his uncle. The conflict is external. There is a fight about Darnay selling the old establishment in France. Darnay’s uncle curses him.
There is no resolution to this conflict, but Darnay’s uncle meets his demise when he is stabbed to death by Gabelle. One major internal conflict is between Carton and his inability to pursue any goals. He is revealed as a waste. He becomes the saddest story, when he is born with all the potential in the world but does nothing with it. The conflict is finally resolved when he keeps his promise to Lucie, when he takes his life for Darnay. He is able to come to terms and feel at peace. Sacrifice becomes a central theme in the novel. One example is when Darnay gives up his aristocratic lifestyle to pursue life in England.
Another example is Carton when he sacrifices his life in order to save Darnay, so that Darnay can flee the country with Lucie. Another obvious them in A Tale of Two Cities is love and hate. An obvious example of love is Miss Pross protecting Lucie’s life by fighting off Madame Defarge. Miss Pross risks her own life to save another. The best example of love is Carton’s promise to Lucie. In order to promise his life to Lucie, he had to love someone more than himself. An example of hate is Madame Defarge’s attempts to kill those who had relations with Darnay.
She wanted vengeance, which is a byproduct of hate. Her hate for aristocracy drives her to almost successfully getting Darnay killed by the guillotine. Another major theme which should be mentioned is death. Carton has to die in order for Darnayto live. Throughout the novel there is speak of death and violence. There were multiple descriptions in the novel of death by guillotine and scenes of the bloodshed due to revolutionary violence. One example I was able to clearly recognize was the guillotine. It symbolized death. Such as when it killed Carton. It also symbolized revolutionary violence.
Evidence of this was whenever speak of revolutionary actions were shown, the guillotine was mentioned. Another example was Madame Defarge’s knitting. She would knit the names of the people she desired to kill. It was a symbol of their fate. Her knitting was a symbol of fate because every time she knitted someone’s name into her pattern, they would be marked to die. My personal reaction to the book was that it was very complicated to understand. Dickens’ word usage made simple sentences much too complicated to understand. I had to read the book with a dictionary.
It took me from anywhere between twenty and thirty minutes to read eight to nine pages. Although I struggled much with the novel, I enjoyed it. My research paper will be concentrated on the complexity of Sydney Carton. He constantly changed my view of him in the novel. At one point I might dislike him, but then in another section I gained understanding for him. I feel that I will be centering my thesis on paralleling the lives and views of both Sydney Carton and Charles Dickens. Works Cited Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Cassia Press, 1998.
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