“A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens is an artfully crafted tale that unabashedly tells the story of the injustice, the horror and the madness of the French Revolution. More than this, it is a story of one man’s redemption, one man who Dickens vividly portrays as being “a nobody”. This nobody had thrown away his life. “A Tale of Two Cities” is the tale of Sydney Carton and his full circle redemption.
The first impression we get of Sydney Carton is not a pleasant one. “[Sydney Carton] sat leaning back, with his torn gown half off him, his untidy wig put on just as it happened to light on his head after removal, his hands in his pockets, and his eyes on the ceiling as they had been all day. Something especially reckless in his demeanor…gave him a disreputable look.” (p. 57) From this description we get the impression that Carton is a slacker and that he doesn’t care about appearances. We also learn that he is a drunk. “ ‘You have had your bottle, I perceive, Sydney.’ ‘Two tonight, I think.’ ” (p.66) Sydney is trying to find the answers for his problems in the wrong places and he has begun to give up hope. “ He resorted to his pint of wine for consolation, drank it all in a few minutes and fell asleep on his arms, with his hair straggling over the table, and a long winding-sheet in the candle dripping down upon him.” (p. 64) Sydney Carton is in bad shape. He is an alcoholic, he is depressed and he has nothing going for him.
Before a chick is born, it must first break free of the shell that encases it. It only begins to chip once it realizes that breaking free is the only way to start a new life. In the same way Carton begins to take a serious look at who he is and what he has become. “ ‘Do you particularly like the m...
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...ounters a young, frightened seamstress. Carton takes her hand and commands her to never take her eyes off him. “ ‘ Keep your eyes on me, dear child, and mind no other object.’ ” (p. 291) Sydney Carton, had always been the follower, but now, he takes the lead in his own life. Amidst the chaos and the confusion of the crowd, Sydney Carton whispers his final words. “ ‘It is a far, far better thing that I do, then I have ever done, it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (p. 293)
As the chick chips its shell to its final breaking free, Sydney Carton begins the journey of redemption and completely transforms himself. Carton ascends to the plane of heroism, using his death to save the lives of others. His own life thus gains meaning and value. “A Tale of Two Cities” is truly the tale of the miraculous redemption of one, ordinary “nobody.”
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