Resurrection in A Tale of Two Cities
Resurrection is a powerful theme found throughout the plot of A Tale of Two Cities. Many of the characters in
the novel are involved with the intertwining themes of love, redemption, and good versus evil. The theme of resurrection
involves certain aspects of all of these themes and brings the story together.
Dr. Manette is the first person to experience resurrection in A Tale of Two Cities. He is taken away from his
pregnant wife and then imprisoned for eighteen very long years. Over the years, his condition deteriorates until he
forgets his real name and mindlessly cobbles shoes to pass the time. In "Book the First", he is released by the French
government and then put in the care of Monsieur Defarge. He is suddenly "recalled to life"(19, 35). However, his
rebirth has just begun and does not become complete until he is reunited with his daughter; Lucy Manette.
In "Book the Second; The Golden Thread," the resurrection theme appears several times. At the start of this
book, Charles Darnay is on trial for treason in England. He has been traveling back and forth between France and
England and is thought to be a spy. The people in the crowd are sure that he will be found guilty, the punishment for this
crime being death. Darnay is saved by the ingeniousness of Sydney Carton, and he too is suddenly resurrected or
"recalled to life".
In both "Book the Second" and "Book the Third," the reader gets different perspectives of the resurrection theme.
Jerry Cruncher is a body-snatcher and he refers to his late night activities as though it is an honest trade. His son knows
of his father's nocturnal activities and expresses his desire to follow in his fathers footsteps: "Oh, Father, I should so
like to be a resurrection-man when I'm quite growed up!" (166). This parodies the resurrection theme because it is a
simple physical resurrection of corpses from the graveyard with seemingly little meaning. The reader later realizes the
significance of the activities of the resurrection-man in "Book the Third."
In the battle of good versus evil in A Tale of Two Cities, good tends to resurrect or be resurrected, while the
forces of evil mimic or parody the resurrection theme. This is shown twice in the novel. Old Foulon, the evil French
aristocrat, fakes his own death so that he will not be slaughtered by the revolution. He is found later, alive, and is
murdered anyway. This pattern of false death and false resurrection is also followed by Roger Cly. He too is evil,
faking his death and being "reborn" as a spy again in a different country.
In "Book the Third," the resurrection theme plays a pivotal role in the development of the plot. Miss Pross
recognizes the spy Barsad as her lost brother, Solomon. In the eyes of Miss Pross, Solomon is resurrected and her
brother is restored. Sydney Carton meets Barsad and shortly after, Jerry Cruncher reveals to them that Roger Cly is not
dead. Cruncher knows this through his "honest trade" of body-snatching. This allows Barsad to be manipulated by
Sydney Carton so that Darnay might be saved from death once again.
Sydney Carton is the character that is most involved with the theme of resurrection in A Tale of Two Cities.
Carton is a man of very little self esteem, but a tremendous amount of courage and devotion. Carton is the man who
helped to resurrect Charles Darnay in England, but it would not be the only time he would save Darnay's life. Carton has
led a miserable life and he has always looked up to Darnay. In Sydney Carton, the theme of love is deeply involved with
the theme of resurrection. He is in love with Lucy Manette, even after she marries Charles Darnay. His love for Lucy is
similar to the knights during the age of chivalry. He vows to give his life for her or anyone she loves.
Carton soon realizes that he may have to make good on the promise he made to Lucy. Darnay is taken prisoner
for a second time in France and Carton knows that the French rebels will stop at nothing to kill him this time. Carton
realizes that he may be able to use his influence over Barsad to switch places with Darnay. Carton looks remarkably
similar to Darnay and he knows that this may be his only chance to save Darnay.
As Carton organizes the switch, the inner purpose of his actions can be seen. Sydney Carton has never succeeded
in life like he wanted. His vow to Lucy wasn't the only thing that drove him to endanger his own life, he also saw it as a
way to redemption. The switch is done successfully and Carton then realizes fully what he has done. He does not back
away from his inevitable death, he embraces it. He becomes peaceful and prophetic as he befriends a women who has
also been unjustly sentenced to death by the bloodthirsty mob. Carton is content in knowing that his action will allow
Lucy to live happily.
In his final moments before death, Carton is portrayed as a sort of Messiah. He is giving up his life so that others
may enjoy theirs. Just before he is beheaded, the words of Jesus are mentioned; "I am the Resurrection and the life, saith
the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall
After Carton is beheaded, Darnay and his family escape to England. The reader gets a brief glimpse of their life
after they escape and how Sydney Carton is literally resurrected. Sydney Carton's resurrection and redemption are
described as how he might describe them:
I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in
the path of life which was once mine. I see him winning it so well that my name is made illustrious by the
light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it faded away. I see him, foremost of the just judges and
honoured men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead I know, to this place... and I hear him tell the child my
story, with a tender and faltering voice.(367)
Carton lives on and with the end of the book the final resurrection occurs. Criticism of this book comments
that effortless running on-and-on is rare in the major novels of the middle period, including A Tale of Two Cities
(Guerard 150). This means that every thing, like the separate themes intertwining, have a specific purpose in the novel.
The classic themes of love, redemption, and good versus evil are all included in the closing use of the resurrection
theme, uniting and unifying the plot of the novel, capturing and adding to Dickens's style of writing.
Guerard, Albert. The Triumph of the Novel: Dickens, Doestoevsky, Faulkner. New York: Oxford
Source: Essay UK - http://www.essay.uk.com/coursework/ressurection-in-a-tale-of-two-cities.php