In A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the themes of rebirth and resurrection are intertwined throughout the course of events in the novel. From the beginning of the novel when the words “Recalled to Life” are uttered to the memorable sacrifice of Sydney Carton at the end, these themes are incorporated by Dickens in his attempt to show the effect of spiritual renewal on a character’s behavior and ambition. Charles Dickens also shows the effect of rebirth on a political level, namely the French mob who ironically are resurrected into the very class they seek to eliminate.
These themes also draw parallels between the desolate Sydney Carton and despondent peasant population, who both crave to escape their anguish and seize greatness and recognition. Therefore, the themes of rebirth and resurrection are predominant because of the parallels it draws between the French mob and the main characters, the spiritual revitalizations the characters experience, and the irony of certain aspects they embody. One reason why the themes of rebirth and resurrection are predominant is because of the parallels it draws between Sydney and the French mob.
Sydney struggles to free himself from his apathetic and purposeless life, but is unsuccessful due to his alcoholism, which is a detriment to his social image because he will never be held in the upmost respect. In addition, his love for Lucie causes internal conflict and depression because he is constantly reminded by Darnay’s success that he cannot win Lucie’s heart. However, he is also rebellious because of his willingness to confess his love to Lucie saying “let me carry through the rest of my misdirected life the remembrance that I opened my heart for you…” (Dickens 155).
Although Carton proves to be his own worst enemy, his final act of selflessness, in which he sacrifices his life for Darnay and Lucie’s happiness, earns him the greatest possible honor there is. He imagines himself resurrected in the “sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence” (Dickens 367). This allows him to be reborn in the memories and hearts of Lucie and Darnay and possibly in their children.
On a broader political level, Sydney’s dire life is similar to that of the French mob and peasant population, who are also fighting for political equality and emancipation, to escape the oppression and their poor standard of living. In the beginning of the novel when the wine casket broke, everyone suspended their activities and “men and women dipped in the puddles with little mugs…even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infant’s mouth” (Dickens 36). It is evident the poverty that the peasants were forced to endure and that their misery united them in the struggle against the aristocracy.
However, their efforts are not in vain because Sydney sees “a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from the abyss” (Dickens 366). As it is evident, the French peasants and Sydney are very much alike, sharing the same struggle, a struggle involving death and holding the promise of a renewed life. Therefore, the dual focus of Sydney and the Revolution reinforces the significance of the concept of rebirth and resurrection. Another reason why the themes are prevalent is because of the numerous spiritual revitalizations the characters experience throughout the book.
A clear example of this is Dr. Manette, who after suffering 18 years of imprisonment, is secluded and isolated in the basement of the Defarge wineshop. All of book one is dedicated recalling back to life Dr. Manette, the doctor of Beauvais and father of the angelic Lucie. His first encounter with Lucie leaves him in disbelief, but she assures him that his “agony is over and that I have come here to take you from it, and that we go to England to be at peace and at rest” (Dickens 53).
After hearing the promises she makes, Dr. Manette submits to Lucie’s claims for salvation, as “she held him closer round the neck, and rocked him on her breast like a child” (Dickens 53). At that instant, his resurrection begins because he is seen as an infant, helpless and youthful, prepared to start life with a renewed spirit. Another occasion when Dr. Manette is revitalized is when Darnay is put on trial, due to his aristocratic origins, where he exhibits newfound strength, power, spirit, and dedication.
His affiliation with the struggle of the peasants allows him to sway their minds and persuade them to acquit Charles, by using his reputation and the sacrifices he made towards the cause of the revolution. Another character who experiences spiritual revitalization is Sydney Carton when he comes to the realization that his sacrifice is compulsory to ensure the security and happiness of the Evremonde family. When Charles is permanently imprisoned and scheduled for a beheading, Sydney disentangles himself from his apathy and indifferent ifestyle and sets out to rescue Charles. Sydney exhibits more leadership skills because he is given a purpose, one that requires caution and cunning, which suits him well considering he is associated with sly personality. When the spy asks Sydney if he will betray him while transporting Charles away from his death, he responds “have I sworn by no solemn vow already, to go through with this, that you waste the precious moments now? ” (Dickens 345). His tone is unlike that of the Sydney in the beginning of the novel because it is very commanding and confident.
Therefore, Sydney is revitalized to in order for him to complete his final act of selflessness. Finally these themes are predominant because Dickens utilizes them effectively to show ironic aspects of the French Revolution and certain characters in the novel. Although Charles Dickens sympathizes with the French peasants in their struggle for liberation, the theme of rebirth helps show that the cruelty and violence of the nobility is resurrected in their methods and that in their cause, social classes have merely switched with peasants perpetuating the violence that they themselves have suffered. The irony is evident