An character analysis essay of the beloved Sydney Carton. From the book "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens.
A Tale of Two Cities – Character Analysis: Sydney Carton
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written. Dickens is renown for his amazing ability of building dynamic characters that everyone can relate to. One of Dickens’ most beloved character is Sydney Carton. Sydney Carton is the paragon of a dynamic character as he evolves from a worthless, lackadaisical, and despondent drunk into a selfless and noble hero who’s character exemplifies Dickens’ talent of creating fascinating individuals through direct and indirect characterization.
From the very first moment Dickens introduces the reader to Sydney Carton, one understands what sort of person Sydney is. His appearance is “careless and slovenly if not debauched” (Dickens 79). Here, Charles Dickens puts direct characterization to use by describing the appearance of Sydney. It is clear that Sydney Carton is unkempt and disorganized. However, Mr. Carton does not seem to care either. Mentally, Sydney Carton is a very despondent lawyer. During Charles Darnay’s first trial, “Mr Carton…changed neither his place nor his attitude, even in this excitement” (Dickens 81). By indirect characterization, one can infer that Sydney did not care about others. He is unattached emotionally to others, and has an apathetic view towards everyone and everything. However, though very slowly, Sydney starts to change his lifestyle.
Throughout the Second Book, Dickens takes Sydney Carton’s old character and starts to morph him into something different. Though Mr. Carton does not change, he begins to turn pessimistic about himself. By claiming he is “not worth such feeling[s of sympathy]”, Sydney Carton understands that he has great potential, but is too lethargic and lazy to fulfill it (Dickens 158). During a conversation with Lucie Manette, she notices something different about Sydney. Lucie had “never seen him softened” (Dickens 155). His “cloud of caring for nothing…overshadow[s] him with such a fatal darkness” that it seems Sydney is incorrigible (Dickens 154). However, all is not lost. Sydney’s cloud [ is] very rarely pierced by the light within him (Dickens 154). Sydney’s metaphoric cloud of darkness foreshadows his transformation. Though it was excruciatingly difficult, Sydney did manage to succeed. Later in the conversation, Sydney mentions that he would “embrace any sacrifice for [her] and for those dear to [her]” (Dickens 158). His promise of self-sacrifice foreshadows his dramatic change and ultimate sacrifice for his loved ones. This dialogue with Lucie is the beginning of the new Sydney Carton.
Sydney Carton undergoes a great transformation and epitomizes it into his greatest act: sacrificing his life. His transformation is exemplified through self-sacrifice. In the beginning, he cared for no one, and no one cared for him. There was a transition phase and by the end Sydney sympathized with the seamstress before both of their executions. He “comfort [her] so much” (Dickens 385). As one can see, Dickens shapes Mr. Carton into a sympathetic and caring man by the end of Mr. Carton’s life. By the end, Sydney gives his own life to save the ones he love. His last prophetic words sum up his life. Sydney goes to “a far far better rest than [he has] ever known” (Dickens 386). Though the majority of his life went to waste, Sydney did manage to redeem himself from of his gloomy past. By the end, Sydney understands that his sacrifice is the greatest achievement of his life, and now he can go to a far far better rest.
Sydney Carton is the most dynamic character in the book. He starts as a pathetic and lowly lawyer. His life seems to spiral endlessly downward towards nowhere. However, Sydney slowly realizes where he is headed, and understands that he needs to stop. Sydney transforms into a noble and valiant hero. As an ultimate show of his transformation, Sydney dies to protect the loved ones around him. His dynamic character is the paragon of Dickens’ amazing abilities of characterization.
1. Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. 150th Anniversary Edition. New York, New York: Signet, 2007.