Character Analysis Of Sydney Carton

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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
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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’s work instead. For this reason, Sydney Carton is often referred to as “the jackal” to Stryver’s lion, “Carton metaphorically provides his senior barrister with professional sustenance.” (Petch) Carton does all of Stryver’s work, as a jackal would provide as food for a lion. Carton is capable of doing the work on his own, instead he does it for Stryver and doesn’t get any recognition for doing…show more content…
Had Dickens portrayed Carton as a blatantly good man with a clear life plan, there would be no character development and a very important aspect of the book would disappear. Through Carton starting off the way he did, it was more important when we found out he had feelings for Lucie and him going to save Darnay became more significant and unexpected. Had Sydney been a clearly good character, he may not have even saved Darnay because the opportunity may not have arrived because everything would have been changed drastically with Sydney being different. Through saving Darnay “...the former "jackal" glimpses a better world rising out of the ashes of revolution, and long life for Lucie and her family- made possible by his sacrifice.” (Morrice) Sydney is able to fulfil his goal of having his name be important and having people associate it with good things through his sacrifice. He makes so 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
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