Monday, November 3, 2008

A Tale of Two Cities

A) Dualism and the Doppelganger

Dickens's novel, A Tale of Two Cities, implements the literary theme of the doppelganger as a means of creating more vivid characters. The greatest situation of which comes from the clash of characterization between Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay. While both look alike, they are the complete foil of each other, which helps to amplify the traits of both characters. Carton is an alcoholic lawyer who works as the assistant to Mr. Stryver a less intelligent, but more ambitious lawyer. Carton is an idle and certainly uncompromising man who doesn't care how insolent he is. However, he knows exactly where he stands and is not afraid to admit that he is not a good person, yet he is unwilling and unable to change his ways. Darnay, on the other hand, is the epitome of a young gentleman. Charles is a former French aristocrat who renounced his title and now works as a French tutor in England. He is ambitious, courageous, and certainly not an alcoholic. This great contrast further portrays the characters in their actions. In fact, Carton envies Darnay as they both love the same woman, yet he knows that his personality, the complete opposite of Darnay's, will never win the love of Lucie manette. The most striking feature of this dualist relationship, however, is their nearly identical looks. it is this physical similarity yet great schism in personality that makes Darnay and Carton almost two facets of the same person, which in effect places Carton as a doppelganger. However, the greatest change in character occurs when Carton nobly switches places with Darnay and sacrifices himself for Darnay and ultimately, Lucie. He realizes that Darnay is undeserving of execution and switches with him to justify his own existence. Therefore, by sacrificing himself (Christ figure) he enables self-justification for his actions by performing this one great selfless act that he has gone through life being the complete reciporical of. It is this skillful use of dualistic characters that Dickens further embellishes the plot into something with more meaning for both Darnay and Carton.

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B) "When he was left alone, this strange being took up a candle, went to a glass that hung against the wall, and surveyed himself minutely in it.
'Do you particularly like the man?' he muttered, at his own image, 'why should you particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that. Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself! A good reason for taking to a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from, and what you might have been! Change places with him and you would be looked at by those blue eyes as he was, and commiserated by that agitated face as he was? Come on, and have it out in plain words! You hate the fellow.'
He resorted to his pint of wine for consolation, drank it all in a few minutes, and fell asleep on his arms, with his hair straggling over the table, and a long minding-sheet in the candle dripping down upon him." (Dickens 64)

This passage conveys the true character and desire of Sydney Carton. Sydney looks at the life he is in now: a scraggly drunkard with little passion for anything in life. When compared to Charles Darnay, he sees just far he has fallen from grace. This emotinal scene shows truly the futility of Carton's struggle and also provides a foreshadow for Carton's justification at the end by literally switching with Darnay and taking the blame. This perfect description of Dickens's most profound doppelganger creation in the novel portrays just how truly opposite these characters truly are and how when compared to each other, incites a great desire for emotional change from the fallen half of the doppelganger.

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C) While I usually recoil from the writing style of Dickens, it is one that makes him one of the most notable writers in history. While some of his description may be described by some as arduous and toilsome, in they end they truly blend together to form a perfect plot line with eloquent characterization and a rather emotional ending. Dickens's descriptive style, while time-consuming, provides such a clear and vivid image in the reader's mind, that it is truly remarkable in and of itself. His metaphors and allusions provide such great pieces of literary spice to the book that it felt realistic in and of itself. I have to say even I originally complained about reading Dickens, yet after reading this book, i recant on what I have said. As many say, "If you can master Dickens, you can master anything in literature." This novel deserves nothing short of a 5/5.

Typical student's reaction to Dickens

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