What are the wishes of Carton as expressed to the seamstress in Book the Third, Chapter 13 in Tale of Two Cities?(pages 359-260 in Bantam Classic edition) I have to do a dramatic monologue and...

What are the wishes of Carton as expressed to the seamstress in Book the Third, Chapter 13 in Tale of Two Cities?

(pages 359-260 in Bantam Classic edition)

I have to do a dramatic monologue and don't exactly understand what I am supposed to be expressing, since he doesn't say much and the seamstress does all of the talking.

My guide says he has a spirit of hopefulness?

Expert Answers
dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The singular wish of Sydney Carton as expressed in his conversation with the poor seamstress who is to be executed with him is to follow through on his resolve to sacrifice his life for the happiness of Lucie Darnay and her child. His second desire, though not directly expressed, is to extend his newfound dignity and sense of humanity to include the need of the little seamstress.

Sydney Carton has lived a degenerate life because of a fatal flaw, which is his inability to find the strength to make something of his life. Gifted with uncommon intelligence, he works as a lackey for a lawyer who has none of his abilities because he has no ambition and cannot rise above the curse of his alcoholism. Carton recognizes his weaknesses and longs to overcome them, but cannot find it within himself to do so. His one redeeming characteristic is his love for Lucie, even though he understands that he can never attain her because of the life he leads. As he carries out his plan to sacrifice his life so that Charles Darnay, the man Lucie loves, can live, Carton finds a sense of fulfillment and peace. His newfound feeling of self-worth gives him a nobility he has never experienced, and as a human being newly realized and with something to give, he is able to love others besides Lucie, as he promises to hold the hand of the frightened little seamstress to the last.

It is significant that, among the few words attributed to Carton in this exchange, is his clear declaration that he is dying for the wife and child of Darnay. The seamstress, upon recognizing that Carton is not the man she knows as "Citizen Evremonde," asks him if he is dying for Darnay, and while Carton does not deny this, he makes it clear that he is giving himself for "his wife and child" as well. This is the wish of Sydney Carton at that moment, to do what he can for his beloved Lucie, and those who are dear to her because they are what makes her happy. In the act of giving, "his heart...warm(s) and soften(s) to this pitiable girl;" he achieves the other overriding desire in his life and becomes a fully realized human being, capable of love that is real and substantial, worthy, and valuable to the world (Book the Third, Chapter 13). 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Book the Third of A Tale of Two Cities, Sydney Carton has switched places with Charles Darnay and makes requests of the spy:

  1. He is to take Charles Darnay to the court-yard and place him in a carriage.
  2. He is to show Darnay to Mr. Lorry
  3. He is to tell Mr. Lorry to give Darnay no restorative but air, and to remember his words of last night and his promise, and drive away.

Later, "Evremonde" is called out and Darnay is taken into a large, dark room where other prisoners are.  There Carton encounters the seamstress who requests

  1. if she may ride with him in the tumbril
  2. if Carton will hold her hand
  3. if Carton is dying for "him"

Carton replies affirmatively to her questions and asks her to be quiet: "Hush." There is no passage in this chapter in which Carton requests anything of the seamstress other than her being quiet.

This chapter reveals why Carton has bought the chemicals in Chapter 9 and now how his character affirms the suggested comparison in Chapter 9 of himself with Christ as the sacrificial lamb.  Carton remembers the prayer at his father's grave when he was a boy:

I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord:  he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:  and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.

With this prayer, Carton transcends time and is a peace, knowing that the "far better thing" he is about to do will bring him salvation. This is his sense of hopefulness in his redemption.  It is an existential moment that gives meaning to his life.

So, for a monologue of Carton, you may wish make it a prayer-like speech, beginning with the "I am the resurrection....die" Bible verse, followed by a prayer for the seamstress and the Evremonde family on their return to London.

Read the study guide:
A Tale of Two Cities

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