Resurrection is a powerful theme found throughout the plot of ATale of Two Cities. Many of the characters in the novel are involved withthe intertwining themes of love, redemption, and good versus evil. Thetheme of resurrection involves certain aspects of all of these themes andbrings the story together.
Dr. Manette is the first person to experience resurrection in ATale of Two Cities. He is taken away from his pregnant wife and the nimprisoned for eighteen very long years. Over the years, his conditiondeteriorates until he forgets his real name and mindlessly cobbles shoes topass the time. In “Book the First”, he is released by the Frenchgovernment and then put in the care of Monsieur Defarge. He is suddenly”recalled to life”(19, 35). However, his rebirth has just begun and doesnot become complete until he is reunited with his daughter; Lucy Manette.
In “Book the Second; The Golden Thread,” the resurrection themeappears several times. At the start of this book, Charles Darnay is ontrial for treason in England. He has been traveling back and forth betweenFrance and England and is thought to be a spy. The people in the crowd aresure that he will be found guilty, the punishment for this crime beingdeath. Darnay is saved by the ingeniousness of Sydney Carton, and he toois suddenly resurrected or “recalled to life”.
In both “Book the Second” and “Book the Third,” the reader getsdifferent perspectives of the resurrection theme. Jerry Cruncher is abody-snatcher and he refers to his late night activities as though it is anhonest trade. His son knows of his father’s nocturnal activities andexpresses his desire to follow in his fathers footsteps: “Oh, Father, Ishould so like to be a resurrection-man when I’m quite growed up!” (166). This parodies the resurrection theme because it is a simple physicalresurrection of corpses from the graveyard with seemingly little meaning.
The reader later realizes the significance of the activities of theresurrection-man in “Book the Third.”In the battle of good versus evil in A Tale of Two Cities, goodtends to resurrect or be resurrected, while the forces of evil mimic orparody the resurrection theme. This is shown twice in the novel. OldFoulon, the evil French aristocrat, fakes his own death so that he will notbe slaughtered by the revolution. He is found later, alive, and ismurdered anyway. This pattern of false death and false resurrection isalso followed by Roger Cly. He too is evil, faking his death and being”reborn” as a spy again in a different country.
In “Book the Third,” the resurrection theme plays a pivotal role inthe development of the plot. Miss Pross recognizes the spy Barsad as herlost brother, Solomon. In the eyes of Miss Pross, Solomon is resurrectedand her brother is restored. Sydney Carton meets Barsad and shortly after,Jerry Cruncher reveals to them that Roger Cly is not dead. Cruncher knowsthis through his “honest trade” of body-snatching. This allows Barsad tobe manipulated by Sydney Carton so that Darnay might be saved from deathonce again.
Sydney Carton is the character that is most involved with the themeof resurrection in A Tale of Two Cities. Carton is a man of very littleself esteem, but a tremendous amount of courage and devotion. Carton is theman who helped to resurrect Charles Darnay in England, but it would not bethe only time he would save Darnay’s life. Carton has led a miserable lifeand he has always looked up to Darnay. In Sydney Carton, the theme of loveis deeply involved with the theme of resurrection. He is in love with LucyManette, even after she marries Charles Darnay. His love for Lucy issimilar to the knights during the age of chivalry. He vows to give hislife for her or anyone she loves.
Carton soon realizes that he may have to make good on the promisehe made to Lucy. Darnay is taken prisoner for a second time in France andCarton knows that the French rebels will stop at nothing to kill him thistime. Carton realizes that he may be able to use his influence over Barsadto switch places with Darnay. Carton looks remarkably similar to Darnayand he knows that this may be his only chance to save Darnay.
As Carton organizes the switch, the inner purpose of his actionscan be seen. Sydney Carton has never succeeded in life like he wanted. His vow to Lucy wasn’t the only thing that drove him to endanger his ownlife, he also saw it as a way to redemption. The switch is donesuccessfully and Carton then realizes fully what he has done. He does notback away from his inevitable death, he embraces it. He becomes peacefuland prophetic as he befriends a women who has also been unjustly sentencedto death by the bloodthirsty mob. Carton is content in knowing that hisaction will allow Lucy to live happily.
In his final moments before death, Carton is portrayed as a sort ofMessiah. He is giving up his life so that others may enjoy theirs. Justbefore he is beheaded, the words of Jesus are mentioned; “I am theResurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, thoughhe were dead, yet shall live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in meshall never die”(366).
After Carton is beheaded, Darnay and his family escape to England. The reader gets a brief glimpse of their life after they escape and howSydney Carton is literally resurrected. Sydney Carton’s resurrection andredemption are described as how he might describe them: I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in the path of life which was once mine. I see him winning it so well that my name is made illustrious by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it faded away. I see him, foremost of the just judges and honoured men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead I know, to this place… and I hear him tell the child my story, with a tender and faltering voice.(367)
Carton lives on and with the end of the book the final resurrectionoccurs. Criticism of this book comments that effortless running on-and-onis rare in the major novels of the middle period, including A Tale of TwoCities (Guerard 150). This means that every thing, like the separatethemes intertwining, have a specific purpose in the novel. The classicthemes of love, redemption, and good versus evil are all included in theclosing use of the resurrection theme, uniting and unifying the plot of thenovel, capturing and adding to Dickens’s style of writing.