Moral And Immoral Conversions Essay, Research Paper
A conversion in the Webster’s Dictionary is described as a change from one belief to another. In the novel A Tale of Two Cities, the acclaimed author Charles Dickens uses his great imaginative power to create a superior artwork in literary terms. A Tale of Two Cities is an in-depth story about the lives of people in the two countries of France and England during the French Revolution. Through the process of the novel many of the characters go through changes. The most drastic of these changes are moral or immoral conversions which empower the characters to become greater or lesser of human beings. The three characters who take moral or immoral conversion to the greatest extent are Sydney Carton , Dr. Manette, and Madame Defarge.
The character who goes through moral conversion to the greatest extent is Sydney Carton. Sydney is a frustrated alcoholic who does not really seem to care too much about life, because life for him has not been too good. His moral conversion begins the first time his eyes see Lucie Manette, the beautiful young daughter of Dr. Alexander Manette. This occurs during the first trial of Charles
Darney. Barbara Hardy describes this first trial and how Carton comes about saving Charles in her essay “The Change of Heart in Dicken’s Novels.” She writes
It is significant that when Sydney Carton first sees Darnay, he performs a good act, using the striking resemblance to break down the witness who is identifying Darnay, and saving his double for the first time(43).
To the reader Sydney is presented as a man who places alcohol as his first priority. But now that he has met Lucie, he begins to set his priorities straight and he pyts Lucie in front of everything else. As his love gets stronger for Lucie he begins to change. For example, he drinks less and finds more meaning to life. Befor he had met lucie he didn’t really care for anything in general, but now he really has found something to live for. Then when Sydney finds out that Lucie and Charles Darney are to be married he is a little surprised because even though he was expecting it to happen, when it did happen he was a little stunned. At this point Sydney Carton takes another conversion but this one is back to his old self. As the story progresses Charles returns to France to save a friend. While he is there he gets caught and is sent to La Force. Sydney hears of this arrest and begins to contemplate whether or not he should give up his life for Charles. Then Carton has his moment of epiphany. He has this moment like Jesus did the night before he was crucified, in the garden. This moment of deep thought allows him to really
understand the true love Charles and Lucie share. So he decides to give up his life so that Charles and Lucie can live their life in love and happiness. Sydney plans to switch places with Charles in La Force so that he may face the guillotine instead of Charles Darney. By doing this Carton proves to the reader that he has brought his moral conscience from a demeaning low to a extreme high.
Dr. Alexandre Manette is the next character to go through a moral conversion. Dr. Manette is the father of Lucie Manette, a young, sweet, innocent looking-girl. Dr. Manette had been imprisoned for eighteen years because of witnessing a crime committed by two noblemen, called the Evremondes. Dr. Manette is saved from the dungeons of the Bastille by a man named Jarvis Lorry who comes with Lucie to get him and take him back to England. This is the first time Lucie is reunited with her father since she was five years old. When they first find Dr. Manette he is not in too good of shape mentally and phisically. He has lost all sense of the outside world and most of his sense inside his head. This is mostly because he has been imprisoned in a small dark cell for eighteen years, while things outside of the cell, in the world have gone through some major changes. The only thing he has found interest in is the making and repairing of shoes. He spends practically all his time just working on shoes. Once they take him away from the hell he has been living in, otherwise known as the Bastille, the three of them go back to England. Now Dr. Manette has changed his old daily
routine into one that has quite a deal of excitement, especially with the trials and Revolution. His morality is increasing and he is no longer the old, horrid hermit who was once cooped up in a small cell of the Bastille. He is now a well-mannered, polite man who is full of character and good fortune. Later in the novel it again proves how Dr. Manette as morally changed this is during the final trial of Charles Darney, when he is imprisoned again after the jury finds him not guilty and releases him. This trial is probably the most important section of the novel because the decision that the jury makes will decide the destiny of Charles, whether he gets the right to life or the punishment of death. During the trial Mdm. Defarge reads a letter written by Dr. Manette. In this letter Dr. Manette states that he will make sure that every nobleman with the name of Evremonde will be vanquished from this earth, even if it’s the last thing he has to do before he dies. Before the letter is read Charles Dickens writes
In the dead silence and stillness- the prisoner under trial looking lovingly at his wife, his wife only looking from him to look with solicitude at her father, Doctor Manette keeping his eyes fixed on the reader, Madame Defarge never taking hers from the prisoner, Defarge never taking his from his feasting wife, and all the other eyes there intent upon the Doctor, who saw none of them-the paper is read(398).
Here the author gives the reader a very vivid picture of the importance of this letter by painting a picture of words a few seconds before the reading of the letter. As stated earlier, since Dr. Manette says that he wants to get rid of all the Evremondes he is also stating that he wants to get rid of Charles because he is an Evremonde too. Here in the novel the reader is given the clearest example of the moral change that Dr. Manette experiences because he no longer feels the way the letter states. He now loves Charles and he wants to make sure that this innocent man’s life is not taken away. Dr. Manette’s love for Charles is proven immensly, when after the conviction Charles his mentality drops tremendously. Dr. Manette proves to the reader to be a very strong character whose strength and knowledge is taken away during an eighteen year period in the Bastille but is later returned when reunited with his family.
Madame Therese Defarge is the final character to have a conversion. But her conversion is unlike the other two because hers is not a conversion towards morality, but instead it is a step backwards toward immorality. Mdm. Defarge is the wife of Ernest Defarge, a wineshop owner in Paris who later in the novel becomes an official and leader of the French Revolution. Mdm. Defarge is a very passive and naive person in the beginning of the novel. But as the novel progresses she becomes more aggressive and inpatient. This aggression was most likely caused by the fact that her entire family perished when she was a young girl.
Mdm. Defarge states this hatred toward the murderers when she says
“ I was brought up among the fisherman of the sea shore, and the peasant family so injured by the two Evermonde brothers, as that Bastille paper describes, is my family. Defarge that sister of the mortally wounded, I say lay upon the ground, was my sister’s husband, that unborn child, that brother, that father was my father, those dead are my dead…”(334).
After her family’s deaths Mdm. Defarge swears to place revenge on those who caused the destruction of her family, as well as those who belong to the same social class as the evil ones. Mdm. Defarge is a very stubborn and impatient person and these factor contribute massively to her moral downfall and immoral uprising. She can be kind and somewhat understanding, but when the opportunity arrives she becomes this ferocious beast who destroys anyone and anything in her path. The best example of this is in the end of the novel when Mdm. Defarge goes to the apartment where Lucie and Miss Pross had been staying. She finds only Ms. Pross there and she demands to know where Lucie is. Since they are both speaking two different languages Ms. Pross has absolutely no idea of what Mdm. Defarge is talking about. As they begin to quarrel in two different languages Mdm. Defarge
says “I have been in the streets from the first, nothing has stopped me, I will tear you to pieces, but I will have you from that door”(461). Here, Mdm Defarge keeps fighting with Ms. Pross telling her that she will do anything to get to Lucie even if it means getting rid of Ms. Pross. As Ms. Pross stands against the door making sure that the devilish Madame does not pass through, Mdm. Defarge pulls out a gun. As the gun goes off she ends up shooting and killing herself instead of her innocent prey, Ms. Pross. This is the perfect way to end the legacy of Mdm. Defarge because she kills herself by her own immorality.
The three characters who have moral or immoral conversions are Sydney Carton, Dr. Alexandre Manette, and Madame Defarge. By ending his life to rescue the life of Charles, Sydney reaches the climax of morality, Dr. Manette grows morally and he is no longer the hermit stuck in the prison cell, Madame Defarge converts to immortality which in the end kills her. In conclusion, it is evident that in this novel those who had a moral conversions were rewarded with true happiness earthly or otherwise, while those who had immoral conversions were doomed to eternal damnation.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Pocket Books Inc., 1957.
Hardy, Barbara. “The Change of Heart in Dickens Novels.” Dickens
Ed. Martin Price. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1967: 10.