A Tale of Two Cities

9. What do you think Dickens is saying about death and resurrection in Carton’s final vision of the future? Is it believable that Carton would have this vision at such a moment?


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Carton goes to the guillotine with a peaceful, philosophical face. If he could have spoken prophetically he would have foreseen the future of the people whom he knows. He would have seen Barsad, Cly, Defarge, the Vengeance, the Jury, and the Judge all dying on the guillotine which they helped raise. He would see a peaceful life for Lucie and Charles Darnay back in England, with each generation of her family, including a son named after him, blessing his name and visiting his grave. He dies with the conclusion that "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."

The thematic emphasis of this chapter is on the irrevocable passage of time. Dickens describes Time as a "powerful enchanter" who never undoes the work he has done. The personification of time momentarily brings the reader out of the personal details of the characters in the story and back to the distant, fable-like tone of the first chapter of the novel. However, in his death, Carton gains the ability to transcend time. He is able to look into the future and see what happens to his loved ones. Carton will achieve a resurrection of sorts through the birth of Lucie and Darnay's son and grandson. Although it will be the far-reaching future, even those alive then will refer to themselves in terms of the past - they pass on the story of Carton's sacrifice. In this way, Carton lives up to his nickname of Memory, becoming a tangible memory through his reborn persona.