In A Tale of Two Cities,  Book II,  what is meant by Lucie's “compassion” to Sydney Carton?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You want to examine Chapter 20 in Book II, entitled "A Plea", to find the answer to this question. In this Chapter, Carton speaks to Darnay and asks him to forgive him for his past rudeness when he was drunk and he expresses his wish that they might be friends. Darnay says that he has forgotten the insult, but then goes home to mention to others this conversation. Darnay "spoke of Sydney Carton as a problem of carelessness and recklessness." Although he did not speak bitterly, his wife takes umbrage with Charles at his description of Carton, saying to him:

"I think, Charles, poor Mr. Carton deserves more consideration and respect than you expressed for him to-night."

She expresses her conviction that Carton  "has a heart he very, very seldom reveals, and that there are deep wounds in it. My dear, I have seen it bleeding." Then Lucie interestingly offers her assessment of Carton's character:

"I fear he is not to be reclaimed; there is scarcely a hope that anything in his character or fortunes is reparable now. But, I am sure that he is capable of good things, gentle things, even magnanimous things."

Notice how this assessment foreshadows Carton's final sacrifice, which can only be described as "magnanimous." Lucie's compassion towards Carton therefore leads her to believe the best in him, to pity his situation, especially as she and Darnay are so "strong" in their happiness. Having refused him, does she feel guilty about his position? Whatever the answer, the chapter ends with Dickens imagining what Carton would have said if he had heard the conversation, words that capture the essence of Lucie's gentle character:

"God Bless her for her sweet compassion!"

Read the study guide:
A Tale of Two Cities

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question