Reversal of Characters in A Tale of Two Cities

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Reversal of Characters in A Tale of Two Cities

When writing a book, authors often focus on a central issue or theme.

However, other themes develop through the course of the piece, either

consciously or subconsciously. One such theme is a reversal of characters in A

Tale of Two Cities. Individuals and groups of people change dramatically from

the outset of the book all the way up to its conclusion. Three of the most

obvious changes in character are Sydney Carton, Madame DeFarge, and the French

people as a whole.

Sydney Carton is first described at Darnay's trial as not paying attention

to what's going on, sort of an oaf. He is portrayed as a drunk, and even admits

this to Darnay on their "date." However, love, they say, is strong; Carton's

love for Lucy changed him greatly though the course of the novel. He stopped

drinking when he visited, and even pledged his life to her, and everyone she

loved. Carton changed even more dramatically when death on the guillotine was

approaching. He waxed philosophical about the future, and even quoted a few

scriptures. This is most certainly not the man first seen at the Old Bailey

with the sideways wig.

Another interesting change took place in the character of Madame Defarge.

She is first portrayed as a woman of principle who is helping her husband with

the revolution. However, Madame Defarge makes a startling metamorphosis from

supporting character to antagonist when she is revealed to be the shadow. She

is shown to be cruel and petty, not the compassionate woman one would assume of

a leader of a revolution against tyranny. This part of the novel casts a

shadow of doubt over the rest of the characters, and one begins to question the

validity of all the characters.

Finally, the French people themselves start out as downtrodden and

miserable victims of a corrupt system. But it is illustrated that they could be

just as heartless as their rich counterparts, the aristocrats, when it came down

to it. For example, anyone who was an aristocrat, or even associated with

aristocrats, was sentenced to death. As the novel went on, the French people

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