A Tale of Two Cities Characters
by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities book cover
Start Your Free Trial

A Tale of Two Cities Characters

The main characters in A Tale of Two Cities are Sydney Carton, Charles Darnay, and Lucie Manette.

  • Sydney Carton is an outwardly cynical barrister who believes he has wasted his life. He ultimately sacrifices himself out of love for Lucie Manette and dies by guillotine in Charles Darnay’s place.
  • Charles Darnay is a French aristocrat who has severed ties with his family, the cruel Saint Evremondes. He risks his life to save Gabelle and is saved from execution by Sydney Carton.
  • Lucie Manette is a compassionate young woman who devotes herself to caring for her father, Dr. Manette, and eventually marries Charles Darnay.

Download A Tale of Two Cities Study Guide

Subscribe Now


Sydney Carton

Sydney Carton is an improbable hero who hides a noble and rather romantic nature beneath a carapace of hard-bitten cynicism. Carton is a barrister of high intelligence and considerable abilities whose career has nonetheless been unsuccessful, largely due to his lack of application and self-belief. He drinks a great deal and regards his life as worthless and wasted, which is one of the reasons why he decides to sacrifice it. The primary reason for his sacrifice, however, is his love for Lucy Manette, and it is his selfless concern for her happiness that finally elevates his deeply flawed character to the level of heroism.

Charles Darnay

Charles Darnay is a French aristocrat, a member of the Saint Evrémonde family, who has renounced his title and taken the name of Darnay in disgust at the cruel and oppressive conduct of the other Sainte Evrémondes. Darnay is physically very like Sydney Carton but psychologically quite dissimilar, as his character is open, honest, and quite free from cynicism. He is also less intelligent than Carton and seems not to grasp that Carton dislikes him principally because they both love Lucie Manette, and Darnay is able to marry her. Darnay is courageous and altruistic, risking his life when he returns to Paris to save Gabelle.

Lucie Manette

Lucie Manette is, in many ways, the archetypal Dickens heroine: young, beautiful, and so perfectly pure and good that she seems practically angelic. This is clearly the impression she makes on Sydney Carton, who loves Lucie but regards her as too far above him for him to think of marrying her. Lucie’s compassion and concern for Carton are a sign of her purity of heart, as is her selfless devotion to her father.

Dr. Alexandre Manette

After eighteen years of unjust imprisonment in the Bastille at the instance of the Sainte Evrémonde brothers, Dr. Manette is a physical and mental wreck, pitifully weak and perpetually terrified. The care of Lucie, the daughter he never met before his release from prison, gradually restores him to health and contentment.

Ernest Defarge

Monsieur Defarge is the former servant of Dr. Manette, who now keeps a wine shop in Paris. He is also a leader of the revolution, to which he has a strong ideological commitment. Defarge is strong, brave, and principled. He hates the aristocracy, and the Sainte Evrémonde family in particular, partly out of loyalty to Dr. Manette. Nonetheless, he is more moderate in his attitude to the revolution than many of his comrades, including his wife. The Defarges take a leading role in the storming of the Bastille, and Sydney Carton foresees that he will eventually die by the “retributive instrument” of the guillotine.

Thérèse Defarge

Madame Defarge, wife of Ernest, shares his commitment to the revolution, though her attitude is far more extreme and bloodthirsty than her husband’s. She is fearless and ruthless, and utterly implacable in her hatred of the Sainte Evrémonde family. Madame Defarge is one of the leading tricoteuses, the women who sit placidly knitting as they watch the public executions.

Jarvis Lorry

Jarvis Lorry is an orderly, methodical, and slightly vain old gentleman of about sixty. He is a manager at Tellson’s Bank and takes charge of the Paris branch during the revolution. Lorry is a loyal friend of the Manette family, providing them...

(The entire section is 1,040 words.)