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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens
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Why is Sydney Carton good in A Tale of Two Cities?

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Sydney Carton is a complex character, but he can be described as good.  Even though Carton at first appears to be no more than a self-loathing alcoholic, he is actually a brilliant lawyer and one who falls in love with Lucie but remains at a distance, until he can give his life to assist her.  In court, Carton “took in more of the details of the scene than he appeared to take in” (enotes etext p. 49).  He holds up Mr. Stryver, who never actually does any legal work.

Sydney Carton, idlest and most unpromising of men, was Stryver’s great ally. What the two drank together, between Hilary Term and Michaelmas, might have floated a king’s ship. Stryver never had a case in hand, anywhere, but Carton was there, with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ceiling of the court. (p. 56)

 It is Carton’s legal skills that first save Lucie’s husband, when he announces to the court that the two men look alike.  The witness cannot be sure who he saw.

Carton falls in love with Lucie, but he never tries to take advantage of her.  He remains her friend at a distance.  He helps where he can.  In France, he takes her husband’s place so that they can live together.  He tells everyone it is a “far, far better thing” (p. 241) that he has done, but in reality Carton is a good man.  He is just not happy with himself.  Lucie brings out the best in him.  He is good, because of her.

All page numbers are from the enotes etext pdf.

"A Tale of Two Cities." Web. 03 May 2012. <>.

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