A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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How old are the characters Sydney Carton, Madame Defarge, Charles Darnay, Lucie Manette and Doctor Manette from A Tale of Two Cities?

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A Tale of Two Cities is a historical fiction classic written by Charles Dickens. The story is organized or split up into three "books," which span the time period 1775 in Book One to 1792 in Book Three. Therefore, the ages of the characters can be different depending on what part of the story you are analyzing.

The ages of the characters explicitly mentioned by Dickens are as follows, listed in the order in which their age is mentioned:

  • Lucie Manette is told to be 17, in Book One, Chapter Four.
  • Madame Defarge is told to be 30 in Book One, Chapter Five.
  • Charles Danay is told to be 25 in Book Two, Chapter Two.

We must use context clues to determine the ages of characters not explicitly stated. We can assume that Sydney Carton is in his 20s, as he switches places with Charles without notice.

There are chronological clues given for Dr. Mannette. He was imprisoned for 18 years just after being married. If we assume he was married between 18 and 25 years of age, then Dr. Mannette is most likely in his 40s.

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It is hard to pinpoint exact ages for the characters because the novel does span a time period from 1775 (beginning of Book One) to 1792 (beginning of Book Three). Dickens does, however, give the ages of most of these characters when they are introduced. Lucie Manette is said to be 17 in Book 1, chapter 4, Charles Darnay is 25 in Book 2 chapter 2, and Madame Defarge is 30 in Book 1 chapter 5. We can assume that Sydney Carton is similar in age to Darnay because they are able to switch places at the end without anyone knowing. Dr. Mannette is probably in his 40s or 50s when introduced because he had been imprisoned for 18 years after he was newly married and had a daughter. Also, he is described in Book 2 chapter 2 as not looking too past his prime.

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