Charles Dickens made an imprint in literature by his classic work of A Tale of Two Cities. The political turmoil that revolved around the story is a reflection of the current social context which Dickens experienced. A tale of two notable cities both leading to become key powers in Europe at that time, Paris and London became the grounds for the evolution of the characters in the story. In the middle of chaos because of political reasons, this tale focused more on the essence of human’s search for a higher purpose. The characters have their distinct roles in the development of the story.
Perhaps, one of the most important of them is the character of Sydney Carton. Mr. Carton is a character that has the clearest portrayal of depth. He has a lot of internal developments which contributed to the progress of the story. Readers can understand him easily because his character is very much human. Charles Dickens depicted him in a detailed manner making Carton as the most dynamic character in the novel. Sydney Carton Sydney Carton is a young English lawyer who shares similar physical attributes with a runaway French aristocrat, Charles Darnay.
He is an intelligent man who mostly indulges in excessive drinking. Carton likes working behind the limelight because such recognition does not have an importance on him unlike his friend, Stryver. Most of his time is being spent drinking wine especially in the middle of heavy workload. Sydney is portrayed as openly apathetic to the society and does not give that much of an importance with his life’s progress. On the other hand, his views in life changed through the course of the story. This began when he developed a strong feeling of love for Dr. Manette’s daughter, Lucie.
This emotion becomes the motivation of Sydney to be the man that he turns out to be as the story progresses. As mentioned earlier, he is the character that has so much depth and development than the rest. It can be interpreted that Sydney Carton lived behind a mask he created. It is a mask of apathy, pride and arrogance. His actions were further described as “…careless as to be almost insolent” (Dickens, 1859, Chapter III p. 134). This kind of behavior is most evident with Carton’s interaction with Darnay. ‘I neither want any thanks, nor merit any,’ was the careless rejoinder.
It was nothing to do, in the first place; and I don’t know why I did it, in the second. ’ (Chapter IV p. 144) However, behind the apathetic behavior that he exudes to most of the characters, his scenes where he is isolated reveal his misery. ‘Then you shall likewise know why. I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me. ’ (p. 146) From the cited text, though he is seething with sarcasm, these statements conveyed his regret with how he lived his life. In the middle of bickering with Darnay, Carton actually made an indirect confession of his misery despite being drunk.
The mask that he has is further portrayed when he denied his attraction with Lucie. Sydney denied it with intensity that made him walked out on his friend, upon reaching his bedroom he is immediately shifted into a gloomy description of his room. He is immediately covered in an unfathomable sadness, imagining a vision of himself completely opposite of the real Carton. …and saw for a moment, lying in the wilderness before him, a mirage of honourable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance. In the fair city of the vision, there were airy galleries from which the loves and graces looked upon him…
Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their direct exercise, incapable of his own and his own happiness… (Chapter V p. 157, 158) The attraction for Lucie which he denied with intensity is completely much the opposite. Sydney Carton is irrevocably in love with the doctor’s daughter. Lucie Manette is the only character in the novel who Carton revealed his real feelings to as a man. His confession of love is followed by a confession of his useless life. Before Lucie, he is a man with carelessness, apathy, and vices of alcoholism.
Though he knew she would never reciprocate his love, he made a vow to do anything for her welfare. ‘In the hour of my death, I shall hold sacred the one good remembrance—and shall thank and bless you for it—that my last avowal of myself was made to you, and that my name, and faults, and miseries were gently carried in your heart. May it otherwise be light and happy! ’ (Chapter XIII, p. 267) This event shows the evolution of Carton’s character. He begins to lead a life with purpose, embracing death with peaceful joy and at last, reaching his highest purpose.
Sydney Carton is a perfect example of an anti-hero. He is clearly depicted as an imperfect character who is very much aware of his failures as a man. However, as the story develops, Carton is drawn to change by his love for Lucie. His death becomes a way of redeeming himself from the mistakes he has done. In the form of Lucie and by means of death, Carton regards this as his greatest deed. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest than I go to than I have ever known” (Chapter XV p. 669). His love and his death washed away his mask that kept locked in misery all his life.