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In the 16th century Charles Dickens wrote the unforgettable novel A Tale of Two Cities. In it he created two of the most remarkable fictional characters of all time. One is the bloodthirsty Madame Defarge, and the other is the selfless Sydney Carton. Madame Defarge is a peasant who seeks revenge on all aristocrats who cross her path. In contrast, Sydney Carton is a man who is willing to do anything for the love of his life. While the actions of these two characters clearly delineate their differences, the underlying forces that drive each character are quite similar.
From Madame Defarge’s actions, it is clear that she is the evil antagonist in the novel. Even in the manner that she is physically described, she is presented as “dark” and therefore she is seen as evil. She is as evil as she is because when she was younger the D’Evremonde brothers killed her whole family. Now the purpose of her life is to procure revenge on the D’Evremonde family and every other aristocrat. Even when told by her beloved husband she has gone to far, she does not stop. Instead her repartee to him was, “Tell the wind and fire where to stop; not me”. In it she evidently expresses how she will never forget what was done to her family and how the D’Evermondes are deserving of what they will receive. The actions she performs in her daily life demonstrate her evilness. In the novel it seems as though she is the “bad guy” who is starting up all the trouble. It is her need for revenge, in the book, that starts the revolution.
While Dickens presents Sydney Carton as a worthless drunk, in contrast to Madame Defarge, he is the Christ-like noble figure of the novel. He appears to the readers of A Tale of Two Cities as a worthless drunk and a man who has not acquired any high social position in his life. Also, it seems as though his life has resulted to nothing. At one point he says, “I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me”, but that changes when he meets Lucie Manette. He develops an undying juvenile-like love for her. Sydney is willing to do anything for her and tells her so in a beautiful speech he made to her. In it he states, “Think now and then that there is a man who would give up his life, to keep a life you love beside you”.
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While the actions of these two characters symbolize good versus evil, the driving forces that drive both Madame Defarge and Sydney Carton ironically are very similar. Both Defarge and Carton live their lives passionately. Madame Defarge passionately devotes her live to seeking revenge. She constantly knits a list of those she wishes dead in order to fulfill that wish. She even attempts to ruin the lives of people not on her list in order to ruin the lives of those on her list. Sydney Carton is so passionately in love with Lucie Manette and not willing to give up. He states, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, that I have ever done; it is a Far, far better rest than I have ever known”. He is speaking of how is life has resulted to nothing so what he will now do it better than anything he has ever done before. Also, everything he does his for his love, who he loves so passionately. Along with that, in his speech in which he confesses his love for her, he speaks of how his love will continue till the day he dies. He says, “In the hour of my death…that my last avowal of myself was made to you”. In addition, both are very strong characters. The stand up for what they believe in and will not give up. An example is Sydney Carton when Lucie marries Charles Darnay. He does not end his love for her, instead, it continues on until the day he dies. An example of Madame Defarge’s strength is when she continues to search for another way to get Charles killed after he is released from prison and she is successful due to that strength. A third similarity is that both characters are exceedingly determined and have the patience needed to reach their goals.
The contrast between Sydney Carton and Madame Defarge serves to develop a reoccurring theme in the novel, man’s persistency to achieve his goal. Although Madame Defarge and Sydney Carton seem to be such opposites, their underlying forces are basically the same. With Defarge being so evil and Carton so good, it is quite odd to think that they are similarly passionate, strong, and determined to reach their goals. In reading A Tale of Two Cities one would think that there is nothing alike between Madame Defarge and Sydney Carton, however, they both carry out their lives with the same dedication and consecration in order to fulfill their very different lifestyles.