Two Cities Essay, Research Paper
A inspiration in life that many people cling to is, that no matter how rough
and demoralizing things get, there is always a possibility of redemption and
salvation. Many characters in the novel, A Tale Of Two Cities, are sure that their own death or mental destruction is at hand but somehow they escape the grasp of death. Dr. Manette who has been imprisoned for eighteen years is completely insane and is lovingly nursed back to health. Characters such as Charles Darnay slip through the fingers of death more than once. Redemption and salvation do not always come in the form of being saved from death. Sydney Carton, a man of great potential, has wasted his life and ends up giving his life, in an act of redemption. Dickens, in A Tale Of Two Cities, shows that no matter how bleak a person’s life might seem, redemption and salvation are always possible.
Dickens develops the theme of redemption and salvation through Dr.
Manette’s painful experience in prison and his resurrection back into society. The famous quote, “Recalled to life” (Dickens page 8), is used many times in A Tale Of Two Cities to describe Dr. Manette’s escape from sure death in the Bastille. Dr. Manette’s story begins when he is imprisoned unjustly for eighteen years. The solitary time spent in the prison waiting for his certain death is so excruciating it makes Manette go insane. When Dr. Manette is finally released he does not even know his own name: “one hundred and five north tower” (Dickens p 37) is all he says when asked. Mr. Lorry and Lucie Manette have the emotional stressful task of restoring Dr. Manette back to health: “to restore him to life, love, duty, rest, comfort” (Dickens p 22). It took more than five years for Mr. Lorry and Lucie to reinstate Dr. Manette’s health and even still he has a lot of trouble dealing with flashbacks of his agonizing years in prison: “old air of avoidance and dread had lately passed over him, like a cold wind” (Dickens p 178). The redemption and salvation barely attained by Dr. Manette left deep emotional scars and whenever they are jolted Dr. Manette goes back to his deranged state of mind. The shoemaker bench, Dr. Manette used in prison, has immense psychological effect on him. It helps the reader understand Dr. Manettes state of mind before he is saved and nursed back to health. The bench represents how insane Dr. Manette has become. Even though he is a man of great intelligence, he worked day after day for eighteen years on one shoe maker’s bench. He has been forced to give up on
life and wait in his cell, “on hundred and five north tower” (Dickens p 37), for his certain death. The redemption and salvation of Dr. Manettes body, mind and soul show the reader that human spirit is strong and it is always possible to get a second chance at life.
Charles Darnay’s evasion of death in England and twice in France develops the theme that being saved from almost certain fate is always possible. In England Charles Darnay is arrested and tried for treason. Lucie, Dr. Manette and Mr. Lorry are all put on the stand in this trial but the salvation of Charles Darnay comes from his astonishing resemblance to Sydney Carton. “Look well upon that gentleman, my learned assistant,” pointing to him[Sydney Carton] who had tossed the paper over, “and then look well upon the prisoner. How say you? Are they very like each other?” (Dickens p 67). The next salvation Darnay experiences is from another trial, this time in France. Darnay is saved again by another person’s doing and not his own. Dr. Manette, a hero among the French revolutionaries, frees Darnay by swaying the crowd in his favour: “His[Dr. Manette] high personal popularity, and the clearness of his answers, made a great impression” (Dickens p 265). This trial really shows how lucky Darnay is that he met the Manettes. For it was only Dr. Manette’s imprisonment that saves Darnay. Darnay’s freedom is short-lived for the same night that he is released he is picked up and arrested again. At the trial, this time, he is convicted. The outlook on the situation is extremely grim as everyone is preparing themselves for his execution: “Yes, he will perish: there is no real hope” (Dickens p 315). As certain as Darnay’s death seems, Carton switches places with Darnay and Darnay escaped safely back to England. This is Darnay’s third evasion of death, showing that there is always a hope for salvation, even in the seemingly certain death of Darnay.
Sydney Carton’s redemption comes in a profound form. Carton is a man of
great potential who has unfortunately resigned himself to being a drunken slug
who sits back and lets his meaningless life consume him: “I shall never be better than I am. I shall only sink lower, and be worse” (Dickens p 137). Carton never gives himself a chance at doing something productive. The only thing he really cares about in the world are his companions, especially Lucie Manette, but he knows he is not worthy of her and is satisfied with just being a close friend. Cartons depression gets to an unbearable point where he follows through on his promise to Lucie: “For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything” (Dickens p 140). Darnay is about to be executed and so Carton breaks into Darnay’s cell and switches places: “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” (Dickens p 352). When Sydney Carton thinks these words he is for once in his life confident that he is making a difference by improving the lives of many others. He has complete inner redemption for his wasted life, a life that finally means a great deal to a great many people.
Dickens, in A Tale Of Two Cities, shows through the three characters, Dr.
Manette, Charles Darnay and especially Sydney Carton, that no matter how bleak
the outlook on a person’s life may seem there is always a chance for redemption
and salvation. Dickens shows through Dr. Manette that salvation and redemption
makes it possible to go from a deranged, demoralized being to a loving, caring,
nurturing member of society. The reader is shown through Charles Darnay that no matter how many times someone seems to be at an end, salvation is always
possible. “It is said that Sydney Carton holds a position in literature no less
illustrious than Shakespeare’s Hamlet in his appeal as a tragic hero” (Coles p 41). Carton is throwing away his life but by his one distinguished act of humanity he achieves complete redemption. Through these three characters, Dickens explains how redemption and salvation are always possible, whether it be internal or external or in France or England, it does not matter. The theme of salvation and redemption taps into a vision that millions of people hold on to when they’re troubled. Knowing that things can get better than what they are is a knowledge that is so significant to the human spirit. The theme of redemption and salvation is the major theme of the book and is summed up in two famous quotes. “Recalled to life” (Dickens p 8), which Dickens considered for the title of the novel, and, “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” (Dickens p 352).
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