Thursday, December 30, 2010


Since my senior year of high school, it has been my tradition to read Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities over Christmas break. I confess, I start to tear up at the last book every time I read it. The third to last chapter and the very last chapter make me weep. I LOVE SYDNEY CARTON. {Spoiler Warning: read the book, and then read this post.}

Sydney Carton loves Lucie, knows he cannot have her, knows that the other man is better for her, knows that he doesn't deserve her, and knows that nothing will ever change. And he keeps on loving her. He promises her that one day, he hopes to be useful to her or to those she loves. When Darnay is condemned to die, and nothing Doctor Manette does will save him, Carton steps in. He has been close by, watching her, but he leaves her in peace. But when she needs him, before she even knows that he is there, let alone that she needs him, he is already there, taking the initiative to make plans and carry them out.

He could have let Darnay die at the hands of the Revolution, and stepped in to comfort Lucie himself. He could have held her as he longed to do! But he didn't. He gave his life so that she could live in happiness. I don’t think it was ever about saving Darnay’s life; it was about doing anything for Lucie.

I love Carton. He is my favorite character, and although people argue that Darnay is a fine fellow, I can’t stand him. Even the first time I read this tale, without knowing the ending, I loved Carton and abhorred Darnay. There’s nothing wrong with him, but he has no complexities, no depth. Lucie, too, seems a bit flat until the middle. Doctor Manette, so deep and so troubled, but restored because of his daughter. Carton, though, oh! Carton is the character I long to know more about, to read a “prequel” about his life; I want to understand why nothing can be changed, but still I think something did change, or never changed initially. Carton died for Lucie, and that pure love was not tainted by any flaws in Carton’s character.

Dickens, well done. Readers, any thoughts?

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