A Tale of Two Cities


Sydney Carton

Sydney Carton is probably the most surprising character in the entire novel and, for most readers, is the true protagonist of the novel.  When the reader is first introduced to Carton, he is an alcoholic who appears angry and seems to lack any redeeming qualities.  Even the fact that he reveals himself to look very similar to Charles Darnay does not reflect positively on his character, but merely seems like the actions of a lawyer doing his job.   However, the reader begins to see indications that Carton is not the useless and worthless man that he describes himself to be.  Instead, even in his initial sarcastic marks about Lucie, one begins to see a man with a great capacity for love and tenderness, even if he never realizes the ability to allow himself to receive that type of love. 

While Dickens gives substantial background about the other characters in the novel, he does not really describe why Carton is so depressed.  One understands that Carton was orphaned at a young age, but the circumstances of his parents’ death and the impact of those deaths on Carton are not really explored.  Carton obviously had access to some amount of financial resources, as he was able to attend schools and reach the point of practicing law.  Moreover, while Carton works with Stryver, there is no indication that Stryver is actually more talented than Carton.  Instead, Carton makes it clear that he could have seen the same degree of success as Stryver.  However, what prevented him from taking those opportunities is never explained.  Instead, Carton remains a mystery.  This mysterious past serves as a foil to Darnay’s mysterious past, which unfolds as the novel progresses.  The more one understands about Darnay’s past, the more one understands why Darnay is motivated to be so good.  The reader simply never gets this insight into Carton’s life. 

Perhaps the most important thing about Carton’s life is its end.  Carton is in love with Lucie.  Darnay has been convicted...

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Essays About A Tale of Two Cities