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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens
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Which character fits the Initiation archetype? Include textual evidence and analysis

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Sydney Carton fits the initiation archetype in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities .  The initiation archetype is a moment in the hero story, usually psychological, when the character comes into maturity or gains a new understanding of his circumstances.  Typically, the initiation archetype features the hero character...

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Sydney Carton fits the initiation archetype in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.  The initiation archetype is a moment in the hero story, usually psychological, when the character comes into maturity or gains a new understanding of his circumstances.  Typically, the initiation archetype features the hero character accepting responsibility and attempting to resolve a conflict. 

From the beginning of the novel, Sydney Carton seemed an unlikely hero because of his alcoholism, low self-esteem, and depression.  Only at the end does his heroic side come to light; Carton's selfless love for Lucie Manette becomes his most redeeming quality.  When Lucie's husband Charles Darnay faces certain death, Sydney Carton realizes what he must do.  This moment in the novel represents the initiation archetype, resolving the conflict of the novel with Carton accepting responsibility for Darnay's life.  Carton gives himself up for her sake, so the Darnay family may stay together.

They said of him, about the city that night, that it was the peacefullest man's face ever beheld there. Many added that he looked sublime and prophetic. (371)

At last, Carton finds the peace that eluded him, knowing that his sacrifice has saved the family of the woman he loved most.

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