Which character fits the wise fool archetype in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens?include textual evidence and analysis, please

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Working with the definition as stated above, the character of Jerry Cruncher may well be considered for the role of the archetypal wise fool in A Tale of Two Cities. Certainly, with his physical appearance and actions, Jerry provides comic relief to the somber settings and themes of the novel.  For instance, Jerry is described humorously in Chapter III of Book the First,

He had eyes that assorted very well with that decoration, being of a surface black, with no depth in the colour or form, and much too near together—as if they were afraid of being found out in something singly, if they kept too far apart....

His message ["Recalled to life"] perplexed his mind to that degree that he was fain...to take off his hat to scratch his head. Except on the crown, which was raggedly bald, he had stiff, black hair, standing jaggedly all over it, and growing downhill almost to his broad, blunt nose. It was so like smith’s work, so much more like the top of a strongly-spiked wall than a head of hair, that the best of players at leap-frog might have declined him, as the most dangerous man in the world to go over.

Jerry worries about the message of "Recalled to Life" because he is the literal executor of the resurrection theme. And, while he has his moral values inverted, hurling his boots at his wife because he feels she prays against his illegal activities, calling her "aggerwater," Jerry's knowledge of who has been exhumed and who has not provides key information later in the narrative. For, it is "the honest tradesman's" wise tip to Sydney Carton in Chapter VIII of Book the Third that Roger Cly has faked his death that provides Carton the leverage he needs to be able to get into the cell of Charles Darnay with the forced aid of John Basard (whom Jerry immediately recognizes when Miss Pross "finds" her brother Solomon).  When Barsad, an accomplice of Cly, a double-spy, lays before Carton "a certificate of Cly's burial," Jerry, described humorously as "a goblin shadow," steps forward in a critical, but also comic scene,

That there Roger Cly, master,” said Mr. Cruncher, with a taciturn and iron-bound visage. “So you put him in his coffin?”

“I did.”

“Who took him out of it?”

Barsad leaned back in his chair, and stammered, “What do you mean?”

“I mean,” said Mr. Cruncher, “that he warn’t never in it. No! Not he! I’ll have my head took off, if he was ever in it.”

....I tell you,” said Jerry, “that you buried paving-stones and earth in that there coffin. Don’t go and tell me that you buried Cly. It was a take in. Me and two more knows it.”

“How do you know it?”

“What’s that to you? Ecod!” growled Mr. Cruncher, “it’s you I have got a old grudge again, is it, with your shameful impositions upon tradesmen? I’d catch hold of your throat and choke you for half-a-guinea.”

Sydney Carton,...here requested Mr. Cruncher to moderate and explain himself.

“At another time, sir,” he returned evasively; “the present time is ill-conwenient for explainin’. What I stand to is, that he knows well wot that there Cly was never in that there coffin. Let him say he was, in so much as a word of one syllable, and I’ll either catch hold of his throat and choke him for half a guinea;”-- Mr. Cruncher dwelt upon this as quite a liberal offer—“or I’ll out and announce him.”

It is, then, the comical Jerry Cruncher, whose wise judgments lead to the salvation of Darnay's body and Carton's soul.  

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The wise fool archetype reveals a character who is outwardly very silly, distractable, and often provides comic relief; but for all the wise fool's antics, this character has moments of deep insight and clarity.

In Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, Dr. Alexander Manette represents the wise fool dichotomy.  Nearly broken irrevocably from the strain of his long-term inprisonment, the good doctor "believes he is a cobbler, and when he comes under stress his insanity reasserts itself" ("Characters," eNotes).

Despite his psychological struggles, Manette also shows wisdom and great discernment.  This becomes most evident in Chapter Thirty-four entitled "Calm in Storm."  It is Dr. Manette who becomes the calm in the storm.  He visits the tribunal to speak on behalf of his son-in-law, and recounts to Mr. Lorry:

"It all tended to a good end, my friend; it was not mere waste and ruin. As my beloved child was helpful in restoring me to myself, I will be helpful now in restoring the dearest part of herself to her; by the aid of Heaven I will do it!" (Ch. 34)

His determination makes a believer out of Jarvis Lorry.  Dr. Manette's wisdom in the face of looming tragedy strengthens the resolve of the other characters.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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