A formal essay about the usage of redemption in the novel, A Tale of Two Cities:
To appeal to his audience of readers in the 1800’s, author of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, Charles Dickens, wrote a character to mirror Jesus and his teachings in the Bible. The character, Sydney Carton, was one of his ways to show these themes in his own writing. The phrase “Recalled to life” follows Carton throughout the novel as he develops into one of the most intriguing characters ever written. “Recalled to life” is used throughout the book as a means of linking the characters to the Christian ideology of self sacrifice, and redemption. However, the book ends with a different phrase: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done” (Dickens, 364).
When “Recalled to life” is first used in the book, it’s a mystery as to what it’s true meaning is. Jarvis Lorry, a worker at Tellson’s bank, receives a message indicating he has to tell Lucie Manette that her father is going to be released from jail after being in the Bastille for eighteen years. At the end of this message, “Recalled to life” appears, and it is said to another worker at Tellson’s by the name of Jerry Cruncher that it’d be bad if that happened often. “It wouldn’t do for you, Jerry. Jerry, you honest tradesman, it wouldn’t suit your line of business!” (Dickens, 12). Not only is the phrase first presented here as being important to more than one character and plot point, it also is shown to mean two different literal meanings yet stay unanimous in its deeper meaning.
It’s first meaning in the literal sense is that Dr. Manette, who’s been in prison for eighteen years, is being released. He has been recalled to life, he is starting over and seeing the world again after being kept away for so long, but through different eyes. Being secluded for so long has taken an immense toll on his mental condition. He has been set into a state of always wanting to make shoes as a means to preoccupation, and is a small, quiet man who suffers from amnesia. Throughout the events of the book, as he is re-exposed to the world, and gains old memories, he breaks these habits. He has been redeemed, made a new man, and again has been “recalled to life”. Redemption goes hand in hand with the phrase and is one of the main themes of the book along side it.
The phrases literal meaning pertaining to Jerry Cruncher and why it’d be a bad thing for him is based around his second job away from working at the bank. Cruncher is a grave robber, or as it’s also called a ‘Resurrection Man’, at night. He is in a way, recalling bodies back to life, or back into the land of the living. The reason it is said to be a bad thing to happen to Cruncher is because if people were recalled to life, they would all get up and leave and Jerry would be out of a job and he’d make no money. At one point in the novel, Jerry is cheated and a grave is filled with dirt and rocks, which triggers part of a lost broken part of himself that beats his wife. He has no thought of fixing himself and will never find redemption.
Sydney Carton, a drunk, irritable, negative man was in the spot of never finding redemption. He’s pessimistic, and thinks no one cares about him, so in turn he cares for no man. Carton is self destructive; he chooses to drink, continue to do all the work and get no credit for it while fellow lawyer Stryver takes the credit. However, the first carve is taken into Sydney Carton’s heart when he goes to the house of Lucie Manette to confess his feelings for her. Carton, never being one to talk to people about who he feels he is, admits his faults to Lucie and explains how he has no hope for the future and is a lost cause. He is depressed and knows he can’t be her husband, but despite this Lucie still wants to find a way to save him, to recall him to life. She even goes as far as to say it herself, “Without it, can I not save you, Mr. Carton? Can I not recall you – forgive me again! – to a better course? ” (Dickens, 145). Their encounter ends with Carton saying that he would lay down his own life for her or someone she loves.
Carton throughout the story as a person heals his persona and slowly becomes a great man. He had been recalled to life and everything had turned around for him. However, the French Revolution claimed many lives, and it was going to claim the life of his friend Charles Darnay, who was also the husband of the now Lucie Darnay. Sydney remembers the promise he made to Lucie years prior and he knew what had to be done. Carton roams the streets at night, repeating this in his head: “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.” (Dickens, 305).
Carton goes on to replace Darnay in his execution, which represents the biggest theme in this book as well as one of the biggest in the Bible, that being the importance of self sacrifice. God had sent his only son to Earth to die and take away the sins of the world. Jesus Christ is innocent yet he died for the guilty to better the world and not himself. Charles Dickens takes this into his own writing through the development and eventual end of Sydney Carton. Carton embodies that and is the Christ figure, taking the place of Darnay because it would save him and his family, because it was for the greater good of all. He went to his execution without hesitation, and was not fearful, “They said of him, about that night, that it was the peacefullest man’s face ever been held there. Many added that he looked sublime and prophetic.” (Dickens, 363).
One of the questions ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ set to ask its readers, was what is a Christian’s response to negativity, poverty, and evil? And the answer Charles Dickens presented throughout the text was how important the ideals of self sacrifice and redemption are. When Sydney promised Lucie he’d take his life for her or someone else, it directly mirrors John 15:13 of the Bible, stating “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”(New King James Ver. John 15:13). And the phrase “Recalled to life” directly relates to Christ rising from the dead three days after the crucifixion, and after that he teaches of how anyone saved through him is redeemed.
Recalled to life echoes throughout the very person of Sydney Carton. He started the book as a hopeless, self destructive drunk, but by the end of it has made the ultimate sacrifice. Even in death itself, he has been recalled to life because he knows that in death he can live a better life than he ever did on the Earth. He had shown no greater love to his friends, and he was on his way to live in paradise. Dickens was able to show his input and showcase this to his audience through Carton, a deep, sympathetic, understandable character that embodied not only aspects of the Bible’s teachings, but what he thought was the answer to many issues. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.” (Dickens, 364).
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1989. Print
The Holy Bible. New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.