A Tale of Two Cities

Mirror Images: Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay

In his masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens strengthens his theme of paired opposites by juxtaposing the characters of Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay. Initially, it seems as though Carton and Darnay are completely bipolar. While Darnay exhibits nothing but poise and manners, Carton is crude and unmotivated. However, as the novel progresses, Sydney Carton proves to be a far more complex character than he once seemed. He begins to reveal a multifaceted personality---one of underlying nobility, of selflessness, and of course, unconditional love for Lucie Manette. Eventually, Sydney transforms into the calm, knowing man that Darnay once was, and Darnay degenerates into a useless, stupefied character. The similarities and differences between Darnay and Carton, including the absolute reversal of their roles, can be explained through a chronological analysis of A Tale of Two Cities.

When Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay first meet in the beginning of Book Two, they are complete opposites. At Darnay's trial, Sydney has the look of an inept, disheveled attorney, staring indifferently at the ceiling to pass the time (Dickens 75). However, it is not long before he shows his true intelligence, after he shrewdly saves the...

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