In A Tale of Two Cities, deep symbolism and complex themes are an integral part played by the book to capture the reader's attention and fill one with a sense of intrigue. One of the most recognizable is the theme of resurrection. Throughout the novel, characters and situations again and again allude to rising to a new life. Most prominently so are Alexandre Manette, Charles Darnay, and Sydney Carton. Book I of A Tale of Two Cities is centered mostly on the rescue of Alexandre Manette from the horrid French prison, the Bastille; thus, it is titled “Recalled to Life”. Alexandre Manette once had a full life; one of peace and contentment. Imprisoned unjustly, his intellect—and all that was sane in his brilliant mind—dies. Enter Lucie Manette, his daughter, glowing with life and youth. Her love and patience, and simply the realization that she is his daughter, brings Manette back to sanity and health; in a sense, back to life. Alexandre Manette is not, however, the only person whose life Lucie touches. Charles Darnay also is influenced, to the point of asking Lucie to marry him—and bring new life into the world. Lucie accepts, and thus forms a family tie that will prove essential when Darnay becomes imprisoned in later years. Also essential for Darnay's rescue is the wit of Sydney Carton; who, through saving him from imprisonment, has once before brought Darnay a resurrection. Carton's growing heroism—and love for Lucie—spurs him on to again rescue Darnay from inevitable death, to bring him back to a beautiful new life of safety in England. Carton himself believes he will never rise to a new life. Yet, through his willingness to face death, he raises himself to something greater. And by giving Darnay back to the loving arms of Manette and Lucie, he opens the door to a long, beautiful life for them all, and the generation to come. Despite the life of waste he once lived, he gains something eternal by his sacrifice. He realizes this, speaking his last beautiful thoughts: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”As the immortal words run through Carton's head while he nears the guillotine—“I am the Resurrection and the Life”—we are assured that Carton, by his death, was also raised to a new life; where perhaps one day he will again see those whom he gave all for. With A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens asserts his belief in the possibility of resurrection and transformation, both on a personal level and on a societal level. The narrative suggests that Sydney Carton’s death secures a new, peaceful life for Lucie Manette, Charles Darnay, and even Carton himself. By delivering himself to the guillotine, Carton ascends to the plane of heroism, becoming a Christ-like figure whose death serves to save the lives of others. His own life thus gains meaning and value. Moreover, the final pages of the novel suggest that, like Christ, Carton will be resurrected—Carton is reborn in the hearts of those he has died to save. Similarly, the text implies that the death of the old regime in France prepares the way for the beautiful and renewed Paris that Carton supposedly envisions from the guillotine. Although Carton spends most of the novel in a life of indolence and apathy, the supreme selflessness of his final act speaks to a human capacity for change. Although the novel dedicates much time to describing the atrocities committed both by the aristocracy and by the outraged peasants, it ultimately expresses the belief that this violence will give way to a new and better society. Dickens elaborates his theme with the character of Doctor Manette. Early on in the novel, Lorry holds an imaginary conversation with him in which he says that Manette has been “recalled to life.” As this statement implies, the doctor’s eighteen-year imprisonment has constituted a death of sorts. Lucie’s love enables Manette’s spiritual renewal, and her maternal...
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