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Introduction- Individual characters often exist as the heart of a novel.
I. A Tale of Two Cities evolved from Doctor Manette’s story
A. Doctor Manette’s story
II. “Recalled to Life”
A. Doctor Manette’s appearance
B. His revival
C. His relationship with his daughter
III. Doctor Manette’s relapses
A. His newfound strength
IV. Doctor Manette as a hero
Conclusion- Doctor Manette as the nucleus of the novel.
Individual characters often exist as the heart of the novel. They contain dynamic characteristics and occupy a central position in the novel. In A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens uses Doctor Manette as the core of his novel, Doctor Manette “is a worthy hero and a crucial piece in the puzzle”(Glancy 75). His personality and story thrusts him into the spotlight throughout the book. The novel revolves around his character.
A Tale of Two Cities evolved from Doctor Manette’s story. He has witnessed the aftermath of a rape and assault committed by two twin nobles, the Evrémondes, and is forbidden to speak of it; “…the things that you see here are things to be seen and not spoken of” (Dickens 325). But when Manette tries to report these crimes he is locked up in the Bastille. The novel is then built up through Doctor Manette’s cruel and unjustified imprisonment and the events following his release from prison(Lindsay 103). That is how he becomes the core of the novel.
Upon the opening of the novel Dr. Manette is a weak and horrific man. He is a man “recalled to life” (Dickens 24) from an eighteen-year imprisonment and has the appearance of an aged man having white hair and a ragged face; “he is a ghost, the empty shell of a man” (Glancy 69). He is very confused, so confused he cannot recall any of his past or even remember his name. “The experience of oppressive misery has not merely twisted him…it has broken down the whole system of memory in his psyche” (Lindsay 104). He is a mere victim of the past. “Dr. Manette has been driven mad, broken and goaded into a destroying curse, by eighteen years of unjust imprisonment in the Bastille” (Johnson 30). He is too accustomed to imprisonment to be able to bear freedom, which was true of many prisoners during the Revolution. But he is resurrected at the sight of his daughter, who stimulates the memory of his wife with her “threads of gold”, or her golden hair.
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“Doctor Manette continues to be a dual personality, half Lucie’s father, restored to life, half her mother’s husband, the ghostly dug-up remains of an eighteen year burial” (Glancy 70). Because of the presence of his daughter in his life, Doctor Manette was able to retain the life he once knew, a life of mental stability and becomes the man once known by Lucie’s mother, “…and the sound of her [Lucie] voice, the light of her face, the touch of her hand, had a strong beneficial influence with him [Doctor Manette]” (Dickens 76). Even when he is just around Lucie he becomes a totally different man, “on his speaking to his daughter-he became a handsome man, not past the prime of his life” (Dickens 73). Lucie is a devoted daughter and takes good care of her father and Doctor Manette would do just about anything for his daughter, “if there were… any fancies, any reasons, any apprehensions, anything whatsoever,
new or old, against the man she [Lucie] really loved- the direct responsibility thereof not lying on his head- they should all be obliterated for her sake. She is everything to me; more to me than suffering, more to me than wrong…”(Dickens 162-163). Doctor Manette is willing to sacrifice his happiness for Charles Darnay and his daughter. Manette even pushes aside his “natural antipathy” (Dickens 413) towards the Evrémonde family, whom Darnay is an ancestor of. But Doctor Manette is still reminded of his dreadful experience in the Bastille and relapses into a terrible physical and mental state that only Lucie can cure.
These lapses are beyond the doctor’s control, though he can feel them coming but can only try to fight them off, and cannot prevent them when something triggers his memory of prison. But Doctor Manette discovers something deep inside of him. He finds that his prison experience is a source of a newfound strength, “for the first time the Doctor felt, now, that his suffering was strength and power. For the first time he felt that in the sharp fire, he had slowly forged the iron which could break the prison door of his daughter’s husband, and deliver him” (Dickens 333). He has been reborn and has gained more energy than ever before. Doctor Manette attains this strength when he realizes he must be open with his past and his feelings on the subject that has haunted him for the most part of his life. “That which is repressed, that form which we unconsciously avert our gaze, only increases its power by being ignored” (Reed 72). Because he has gained this newfound strength as a result of his eighteen-year imprisonment he is a hero to the Revolution and those seeking reform and revenge.
Mannette’s success in becoming a normal man and overcoming the adversity of the long-term imprisonment can be considered heroic in itself. But Doctor Manette can be considered a hero through numerous actions including saving Charles Darnay’s life, acting as an impartial doctor by “ using his art equally among assassins and victims” (Dickens 333) and by remaining benevolent during the Revolution when so many angry feelings arose. Charles Darnay was the son of one of the Evrémondes that incarcerated him. But Doctor Manette blocks that fact out and learns to respect and care for him because of the love Lucie has for Darnay. His love for his daughter allows him to forgive Darnay for being an Evrémonde and ends up saving his life. Manette shows universal compassion, which can be an attributed characteristic to many heroes, by carrying out his “business” no matter who needs it.
“The Doctor of Beauvais” and “Buried Alive” were two proposed titles for Charles Dickens’s revolutionary novel. Dickens obviously saw Doctor Manette as the major character in the novel from the start all the way throughout the novel (Glancy 68). But many times his importance in A Tale of Two Cities is overlooked because people see him as an elderly and weak man, although he is only forty-five when he is released from prison and the Bastille. But many people including Leonard Manheim see Doctor Manette as an important figure in this novel. He feels that Doctor Manette is “the most interesting, complex, and well –developed character in the whole novel”.
“Dr. Manette is the heart of the novel from the start…” (Glancy 68), he is the closest thing to a hero in this novel. Charles Dickens uses him as the nucleus of the novel as many authors use individual characters in the same way. These characters, as Manheim stated, are “interesting and complex” as well as important to the novel as a whole. They are unique in persona and in their relationships with others.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale Of Two Cities. United States: Barnes and Noble Inc., 1993.
Glancy, Ruth. A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens’s Revolutionary Novel. Boston: Twayne Publisher, 1991.
Johnson, Edgar. “Dickens’s Use of The Motif of Imprisonment.” Readings on A Tale of Two Cities. Ed. Don Nardo 2nd ed. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997
Kucich, John. “The Purity of Violence.” Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1987.
Lindsay, Jack. “Dr. Manette’s Escape from Prison to Freedom.” Readings on A Tale of Two Cities. Ed. Don Nardo 2nd ed. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997
Manheim, Leonard. “Dickens’s Characters are Fantasy Versions of Real People.” Readings on A Tale of Two Cities. Ed. Don Nardo 2nd ed. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997
Reed, John R. “Ultimate Justice over Injustice in A Tale of Two Cities.”
Readings on A Tale of Two Cities. Ed. Don Nardo 2nd ed. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1997