Tale Two Cities EssaysResurrection in A Tale of Two Cities
Resurrection is a powerful theme found throughout the plot of A
Tale of Two Cities. Many of the characters in the novel are involved with
the intertwining themes of love, redemption, and good versus evil. The
theme of resurrection involves certain aspects of all of these themes and
brings the story together.
Dr. Manette is the first person to experience resurrection in A
Tale of Two Cities. He is taken away from his pregnant wife and then
imprisoned for eighteen very long years. Over the years, his condition
deteriorates until he forgets his real name and mindlessly cobbles shoes to
pass the time. In “Book the First”, he is released by the French
government and then put in the care of Monsieur Defarge. He is suddenly
“recalled to life”(19, 35). However, his rebirth has just begun and does
not become complete until he is reunited with his daughter; Lucy Manette.
In “Book the Second; The Golden Thread,” the resurrection theme
appears several times. At the start of this book, Charles Darnay is on
trial for treason in England. He has been traveling back and forth between
France and England and is thought to be a spy. The people in the crowd are
sure that he will be found guilty, the punishment for this crime being
death. Darnay is saved by the ingeniousness of Sydney Carton, and he too
is suddenly resurrected or “recalled to life”.
In both “Book the Second” and “Book the Third,” the reader gets
different perspectives of the resurrection theme. Jerry Cruncher is a
body-snatcher and he refers to his late night activities as though it is an
honest trade. His son knows of his father’s nocturnal activities and
expresses his desire to follow in his fathers footsteps: “Oh, Father, I
should so like to be a resurrection-man when I’m quite growed up!” (166).
This parodies the resurrection theme because it is a simple physical
resurrection of corpses from the graveyard with seemingly little meaning.
The reader later realizes the significance of the activities of the
resurrection-man in “Book the Third.”
In the battle of good versus evil in A Tale of Two Cities, good
tends to resurrect or be resurrected, while the forces of evil mimic or
parody the resurrection theme. This is shown twice in the novel. Old
Foulon, the evil French aristocrat, fakes his own death so that he will not
be slaughtered by the revolution. He is found later, alive, and is
murdered anyway. This pattern of false death and false resurrection is
also followed by Roger Cly. He too is evil, faking his death and being
“reborn” as a spy again in a different country.
In “Book the Third,” the resurrection theme plays a pivotal role in
the development of the plot. Miss Pross recognizes the spy Barsad as her
lost brother, Solomon. In the eyes of Miss Pross, Solomon is resurrected
and her brother is restored. Sydney Carton meets Barsad and shortly after,
Jerry Cruncher reveals to them that Roger Cly is not dead. Cruncher knows
this through his “honest trade” of body-snatching. This allows Barsad to
be manipulated by Sydney Carton so that Darnay might be saved from death
Sydney Carton is the character that is most involved with the theme
of resurrection in A Tale of Two Cities. Carton is a man of very little
self esteem, but a tremendous amount of courage and devotion. Carton is the
man who helped to resurrect Charles Darnay in England, but it would not be
the only time he would save Darnay’s life. Carton has led a miserable life
and he has always looked up to Darnay. In Sydney Carton, the theme of love
is deeply involved with the theme of resurrection. He is in love with Lucy
Manette, even after she marries Charles Darnay. His love for Lucy is
similar to the knights during the age of chivalry. He vows to give his
life for her or anyone she loves.
Carton soon realizes that he may have to make good on the promise
he made to Lucy. Darnay is taken prisoner for a second time in France and
Carton knows that the French rebels will stop at nothing to kill him this
time. Carton realizes that he may be able to use his influence over Barsad
to switch places with Darnay. Carton looks remarkably similar to Darnay
and he knows that this may be his only chance to save Darnay.
As Carton organizes the switch, the inner purpose of his actions
can be seen. Sydney Carton has never succeeded in life like he wanted.
His vow to Lucy wasn’t the only thing that drove him to endanger his own
life, he also saw it as a way to redemption. The switch is done
successfully and Carton then realizes fully what he has done. He does not
back away from his inevitable death, he embraces it. He becomes peaceful
and prophetic as he befriends a women who has also been unjustly sentenced
to death by the bloodthirsty mob. Carton is content in knowing that his
action will allow Lucy to live happily.
In his final moments before death, Carton is portrayed as a sort of
Messiah. He is giving up his life so that others may enjoy theirs. Just
before he is beheaded, the words of Jesus are mentioned; “I am the
Resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though
he were dead, yet shall live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me
shall never die”(366).
After Carton is beheaded, Darnay and his family escape to England.
The reader gets a brief glimpse of their life after they escape and how
Sydney Carton is literally resurrected. Sydney Carton’s resurrection and
redemption are described as how he might describe them:
I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name,
a man winning his way up in the path of life which was once
mine. I see him winning it so well that my name is made
illustrious by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon
it faded away. I see him, foremost of the just judges and
honoured men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead I
know, to this place… and I hear him tell the child my
story, with a tender and faltering voice.(367)
Carton lives on and with the end of the book the final resurrection
occurs. Criticism of this book comments that effortless running on-and-on
is rare in the major novels of the middle period, including A Tale of Two
Cities (Guerard 150). This means that every thing, like the separate
themes intertwining, have a specific purpose in the novel. The classic
themes of love, redemption, and good versus evil are all included in the
closing use of the resurrection theme, uniting and unifying the plot of the
novel, capturing and adding to Dickens’s style of writing.
Guerard, Albert. The Triumph of the Novel: Dickens, Doestoevsky,
Faulkner. New York: Oxford University Press,1976.