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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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What archetype does Lucie Manette resemble in this novel?

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The reader of A Tale of Two Cities finds evidence of Dicken's proclivity toward passive, suffering protagonists, men and women whose virtue comes from bearing up under intolerable circumstances. One of these protagonists is Lucie Manette, who is the archetype of the Victorian heroine.  She possesses what is lauded in the woman of Dickens's time:  a gift for homemaking and compassion for the less fortunate.

In Chapter XIII of Book the Second, for instance, when Sydney Carton visits in Soho, he broaches his intentions of talking to her with these words,

“Pray forgive me, Miss Manette. I break down before the knowledge of what I want to say to you. Will you hear me?”

Graciously, Lucie responds,

“If it will do you any good. Mr. Carton, if it would make you happier, it would make me very glad!”

Moved, Carton remarks,

“God bless you for your sweet compassion!”

Then, he informs Lucie that she has inspired him with thoughts of what he might have been. With this "sweet compassion," Lucie assures Carton that he can yet reach his potential,

“No, Mr. Carton. I am sure that the best part of it might still be; I am sure that you might be much, much worthier of yourself.”

Her swooning and devotion with its sincerity of feeling are also part of the Victorian concept of ideal womanhood in which a passive nature was desired. As Darnay thanks her of reassurances, the mention of his failed nature has obviously disturbed Lucie's delicate nature:

She was pale and trembling. He came to her relief with a fixed despair of himself which made the interview unlike any other that could have been holden.

...can I not save you, Mr. Carton? Can I not recall you—forgive me again!—to a better course? Can I in no way repay your confidence? I know this is a confidence,” she modestly said after a little hesitation, and in earnest tears, “I know you would say this to no one else. Can I turn it to no good account for yourself, Mr. Carton?”

And, in a previous chapter, Chapter X, when Darnay comes to ask Dr. Manette for permission to marry his daughter Lucie, Darnay alludes to Lucie's devotion to her father:

I know,” said Darnay, respectfully—“how can I fail to know, Doctor Manette, I who have seen you together from day to day?—that between you and Miss Manette there is an affection so unusual, so touching, so belonging to the circumstances in which it has been nurtured, that it can have few parallels, even in the tenderness between a father and child.... so she is now devoted to you with all the constancy and fervour of her present years and character....

Then, while her husband is imprisoned by the revolutionary tribunal, the devoted Lucie stands with this "constancy" each afternoon in the street looking devotedly up to Darnay's window in hopes of seeing him.  Truly, Lucie is the idealized Victorian woman, the quiet, fainting, but relentlessly earnest and devoted wife.

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