Essay on A Tale Of Two Cities By Charles Dickens

Essay on A Tale Of Two Cities By Charles Dickens

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“At any rate you know me as a dissolute dog, who has never done any good, and never will.” (215) Sydney Carton states this while talking about himself in Charles Dickens’ novel A Tale of Two Cities. With that statement it would be easy to believe whomever was being described was a terrible character and possibly that he or she is evil. In the case of Sydney Carton however, that is not true. Sydney Carton is a morally ambiguous character throughout most of the novel. It is not until the end that the true character of Sydney Carton is revealed.

“Something especially reckless in his demeanour, not only gave him a disreputable look…” (79) These are some of the first words Dickens uses to describe Sydney Carton. From the beginning one can tell Sydney is not a man of high esteem. Carton is continually described in these ways by others and also by himself. Carton himself, is the harshest when looking at his own character, he constantly alludes to his own life being a waste and that he has no one to care for him; “I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.” (89) Also because of the strong physical resemblance between Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, Carton often compares his life to Darnay’s, whom he views as a much more successful man. This only furthers Carton’s self-disappointment. All of these negatives make it very unclear if Sydney Carton is a morally bad man, or if he is a good man with a very poor image.

While there are negative characteristics of Sydney Carton, there are also positives which make determining his morality even more difficult. Carton is seen as being very intelligent and a good lawyer, however he doesn’t practice law on his own, he does all of Mr. Stryver’...


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...many things possible for the Darnays and he says he can see “that child… winning his way up in that path of life which was once mine.” (390) Sydney being a morally ambiguous character makes him a more realistic character and people can sympathize with him more, making his sacrifice have an even greater impact.


Although Sydney Carton began A Tale of Two Cities as a morally ambiguous character, by the end of the novel it was made clear that Sydney was in fact, purely good. Carton’s ambiguity played a very important role in the novel and had he been made clearly one way or the other, many of the key aspects of the story, including Carton sacrificing himself for Darnay, would not have had the same meaning that they had because Carton was the way he was. “I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts , and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence.” (390)

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