A Tale of Two Cities


Charles Darnay

Charles Darnay is one of two characters who might be considered the protagonists of the novel, the other being Sydney Carton.  The fact that both men might be considered protagonists is important because they are part of the doubles theme that permeates so much of the novel.  Not only do both men look alike, but they are doppelgangers: very similar to one another, and yet also very different.  However, while Carton is a very intriguing character with several layers of depth, Darnay is very one-dimensional.  He is a good man who tries to do the right thing, but why he is motivated to act this way remains a mystery to the reader, as he is characterized in such a narrow manner. 

In fact, the character of Charles Darnay is almost too good to be true.  He is a French aristocrat who has rejected his background, including the wealth that goes along with his name, and has moved to England in order to avoid being associated with his uncle and his father, aristocrats who have abused their power.  In fact, on his journey to England, Darnay begins making plans to try to help a woman who was harmed by his father and his uncle.  Those plans lead to the charges of treason that are levied against him.  One of the recurring themes in the novel is the idea that cause and effect are not necessarily related, and Darnay’s life provides a great example of this seeming dichotomy.  When he tries to make amends for what his uncle and father had done, he is tried for treason.  He also returns to France when he hears that a family servant has been targeted by the Revolutionaries.  Though he is only in France to try to protect this servant, he is arrested because of his relationship to his uncle and his father, and is tried twice for his alleged crimes.  The bad things that happen to Darnay come as a direct result of his trying to correct problems for which he feels a sense of responsibility, but for which he is not actually responsible.  He could not control his father or his uncle’s actions, but feels like he has to...

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Essays About A Tale of Two Cities