A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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At a Glance

  • Sydney Carton: an alcoholic lawyer who helps bring about Darnay’s acquittal and later replaces him before the guillotine.

  • Jerry Cruncher: a “resurrection man” who steals corpses and brings them to medical students for research.

  • Charles Darnay: a French aristocrat who has renounced his family name and decided to begin a new life in England. His association with his family’s wicked actions lead to his imprisonment and death sentence.

  • Lucie Manette: Lucie conforms in looks and manners to the ideal for an English women of her day. Though Charles Darnay marries her, Carton also loves her. Her father is Dr. Manette. The second book is called "The Golden Thread" in reference to her long blonde hair. 

  • Ernes Defarge: a representation of the French commoners and a former servant of Dr. Manette.

  • Madame Therese Defarge: a female revolutionary, and arguably, the main antagonist of the story. Charles Darnay's ancestors were responsible for the deaths of her father, siblings, and nephew. She does not accept that Charles Darnay's immediate family is not evil the way their predecessors were, and tries to exact revenge on Charles and Lucie. 

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Sydney Carton

Sydney Carton, the legal assistant to Mr. Stryver, a successful London barrister. A drunkard and a misanthrope, he has no aim or purpose in his life until he meets Lucie Manette and falls secretly in love with her. Because of his remarkable physical resemblance to Charles Darnay, who becomes Lucie’s husband, he is able to sacrifice himself on the guillotine in Darnay’s place, a deed that finally gives a real meaning to his life in his own eyes.

Charles Darnay

Charles Darnay, in reality Charles St. Evrémonde (shahrl sah[n]-teh-vray-MOHN), an émigré and an antiaristocrat who has renounced his title. In England, where he becomes a teacher of languages, he finds happiness and success as the husband of Lucie Manette. When he returns to France to aid an agent of the St. Evrémonde family who has been captured by the revolutionists, he himself is arrested and condemned to the guillotine. He escapes because Sydney Carton takes his place in prison. Darnay returns to England with his wife and her father.

Lucie Manette

Lucie Manette (lew-SEE mah-NEHT), a beautiful young French woman, closely connected with political events in France. Her father, a physician, had been a prisoner in the Bastille for many years, sent there because he had acquired knowledge of the hidden crimes of the St. Evrémonde family. Her husband, Charles Darnay, is a member of that family and is condemned to the guillotine during the Revolution. He escapes death through the efforts of his wife, her father, and Sydney Carton. Throughout these trials, Lucie remains level-headed, practical, and devoted.

Dr. Alexander Manette

Dr. Alexander Manette, Lucie’s father, a doctor imprisoned for many years in the Bastille in France because he aided a poor servant girl who was forced to become the mistress of the Marquis St. Evrémonde, Charles Darnay’s uncle. Dr. Manette loses his mind in the Bastille and becomes obsessed with making shoes. His mind mends after his release, but whenever he is reminded of his prison days, he seeks out his shoe bench and begins work. He tries to free Charles Darnay from the French prison by appealing to the sympathies of the revolutionists, but he is unsuccessful. At Darnay’s trial, a document written by the doctor while in prison is presented as evidence to secure the young aristocrat’s conviction and sentence of death.

Lucie

Lucie, her mother’s namesake, the small daughter of Charles Darnay and his wife.

Ernest Defarge

Ernest Defarge (deh-FAHRZH ), a wineshop keeper in St. Antoine, a suburb of Paris. A former houseservant of Dr. Manette, he cares for his former master after he is released from the Bastille and before he goes to England. He is also one of the most radical of the revolutionists. With his wife, he tries to get Charles Darnay executed by producing the document Dr. Manette had...

(The entire section is 4,727 words.)