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Curiously, Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities has often met with criticism for its underdeveloped characters. Certainly, Lucie Manette is a stereotypical Victorian heroine: modest, sweet, docile, loving, devoted, but weak, always swooning and fainting. And, Miss Pross is the stalwart and devoted British servant, though humorous. Likewise, C. J. Stryver, who obtusely "shoulders his way" through life, is a prosecutor who exploits his partner, Sydney Carton, using him to solve cases. The nefarious Solomon Pross who has the aliases of John Basard remains flat throughout the novel. Likewise, the evil Madame Defarge is as villainous in the beginning as at the end while Charles Darnay is always honest, loving, and charitable.
Here are the dynamic characters deserving of appreciation from readers:
- Jerry Cruncher, a source of comic relief, he provides a humorous underscoring of the motif of resurrection as a grave robber. He harasses his wife for praying for him, calling her "aggerwayter" and is the porter for Tellson's Bank. He is important in Book the Third for unlocking the mystery of the spy Roger Cly's death and he identifies Basard as a double spy, enabling Carton to strike his bargain of entry into the prison where Darnay is sentenced to death. In the end, Cruncher is inspired by Carton's sacrifice, vowing to reform.
- Ernest Defarge, the wine shop owner/husband of Mme.Defarge he is the former servant of Dr. Manette and, because of his old devotion to the physician, he keeps Manette at his place until Mr. Lorry and Lucie Manette arrive. However, he does exploit Dr. Manette as a prisoner of the Bastille, exhibiting him to others. Still, because of his connection to the Manette family, he tries to discourage his wife from eradicating the Manettes for their connection to the twin Evremondes (of whom Charles Darnay is the son/nephew) who killed her brother and sister.
- Mr Jarvis Lorry, an older man, who entered Tellson's Bank as a youth, he has spent his life as a man of business. Practical-minded, he is yet sympathetic to Lucie as she is reunited with her father after long years. A modest, kind, wise man, Lorry becomes devoted to the Manettes. A doppleganger; he islike Dr. Manette, who has been imprisoned for eighteen years, and is also "recalled to life." For, Mr. Lorry has been behind the bars of the bank to be resurrected into friendship with the Manettes and Miss Pross.
- Alexandre Manette, a political prisoner, Manette has endured prison, but has some scars and relapses. He loves his daughter dearly and essays to defend the son of one of the men who sent him to prison, his son-in-law Charles Darnay.
- Sydney Carton,the unlikely hero of the narrative, Carton is a dissolute attorney who is exploited by Stryver to help him solve criminal cases. He saves Charles Darnay, his doppleganger, by confusing Basard as to which of them he saw on the Dover coach. Carton develops a platonic love for Lucy and envies Darnay, but, he pledges his devotion to Lucie and proves it when he lays down his life for Darnay by switching places with him in the Conciergerie where Darnay is slated for the guillotine. Darnay finds spiritual redemption for his dissipated life as he becomes the sacrificial victim, a Christ-like figure who dies so that another may live. His last words are famous,
"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."
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