In Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, the main characters are the following:
- Sydney Carton
- Madame Defarge
- Jarvis Lorry
- Alexandre Manette
- Charles Darnay
- Lucie Manette
1. Sydney Carton is the hero of the narrative and the most developed of all the characters. Introduced as a dissipated, unmotivated man who allows his talents to be exploited by C.J. Stryver, Sydney has no purpose to his life. After he meets his look-alike, Charles Darnay, and sees the love in Lucie Manette's eyes for Charles, Carton realizes he squanders his life. Further, because of his love for Lucie, Carton is motivated to accomplish something positive. After declaring his devotion to Lucie, he informs her he will make any sacrifice for her:
For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. . . I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere in this one thing (Bk. the Second, Chapter 13).
Carton becomes the novel's hero, as he trades places with Darnay in the prison in France during the Revolution and goes to the guillotine in his place.
2. Madame Thérèse Defarge is one of the greatest villains in literature. She is a flat character who has a single focus: an insatiable hunger for revenge against those involved in the abuse and deaths of her family. Even when her husband asks her to allow Dr. Manette to be removed from her death list since he has already suffered so much, she adamantly refuses. Remorseless and filled with hate, she embodies the chaos and blood-lust of the French Revolution.
3. Mr. Jarvis Lorry is a foil character for Dr. Alexandre Manette. The elderly Mr. Lorry is the sanguine voice of reason and stability. He is a moral and honest man, trustworthy and extremely loyal to Manette and his daughter Lucie.
4. Dr. Alexandre Manette is known as prisoner One Hundred and Five North Tower. Dr. Manette is the man who is "recalled to life." He was a well-to-do physician until he is forcibly taken into a carriage by the Evrémonde twins, who are later responsible for the deaths of Madame Defarge's family members. After Dr. Manette treats a wounded boy and a delirious young woman (the brother and sister of Thérèse) whose husband they killed through long-forced labor, he sends a letter to the authorities. The Evrémondes intercept this letter, however, and burn it. They then have Manette sent in secret to the Bastille, an old prison.
After the revolutionaries storm the Bastille, Monsieur Defarge finds the letter and his wife. Madame Defarge knits his name into her death list and has Manette condemned along with Charles (Evrémonde) Darnay.
5. Charles Darnay is really Charles Evrémonde, the son of one of the twins who cruelly abused and killed Madame Defarge's family. He goes to England to escape retribution for the sins of his father and uncle. He rejects the exploitation of the feudal system and believes in the ideal of liberty, but not the revolutionary practices in his country.
When summoned by Gabielle, who is in grave danger, the loyal Charles returns to France. Unfortunately, his return puts him in danger.
The universal watchfulness so encompassed him, that if he had been taken in a net, or were being forwarded to his destination in a cage, he could not have felt his freedom more completely gone. (Bk.3, Chapter 1)
6. Lucie Manette is the typical Victorian heroine. She faints and swoons; she is naive and sweet and the object of male devotion. She is the "golden thread" that helps Dr. Manette be "recalled to life," and the "golden thread" for Sydney Carton, who is resurrected from a wasted life. He obtains spiritual rewards for his unselfish act of taking the place of Charles Darnay. Unfortunately, both Lucie and Charles are rather flat characters, but they serve to advance the narrative because they both represent a certain faith in humanity.