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Sydney Carton, the Christ-Like Figure - Sample Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities essay

This example comparative essay reveals how Sydney Carton's actions in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities mirror those of Jesus in the New Testament. Written for a high school sophomore English class, this sample literary analysis paper notes the similarities between the Bible and Dickens' work and even includes relevant Gospel quotes to reinforce its findings. It would be a good reference for a student who wants to learn about comparing symbols between two works of literature.

He Suffered, Died, and Was Sydney

Since the beginnings of mankind, saviors have existed-from recently deceased Pat Tillman, to Martin Luther King, Jr., to Jesus Christ. These men have sacrificed their lives to save something they love, be it the United States, the black population of Ameri-ca, or all humanity. Sydney Carton of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities surrenders his life, as well, in order to save the husband of the woman he loves, his friend, Charles Darnay. The events surrounding Carton's sacrifice for Darnay echo the suffering and death endured by Jesus Christ.

Sydney Carton's life begins to resemble Jesus' final journey even before his actual execution. Carton, in imitation of Christ, drinks wine the night before his death and is described as "the day's wine" (459) to be brought to the Guillotine the following day. Just as the wine at the Last Supper becomes the blood of Christ, so "the day's wine" symbolically represents the blood that Carton sheds for his friend. Carton's actions seem to say, "This is my blood; it will be given up for you," even though he does not speak these words aloud. Following his "Last Supper", Carton returns to Mr. Jarvis Lorry's res-idence where he "enter[s] the courtyard and remain[s] there alone, looking up at the light" (427). Carton's meditation resembles Jesus' hours of solemn contemplation and prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. The light at which Carton stares represents God, to whom Jesus was praying the night he was arrested. Carton secretly exchanges places with Charles Darnay, who has been imprisoned and condemned by his own people, and whose "final hour [is] Three" (432). The French citizens condemn Darnay, and Carton through him, in much the same way as Jesus is condemned by his people, the Jews. The time of death also plays a significant role in this situation-Carton, like Jesus, breaths his last at three o'clock in the afternoon. It is at this time, at the beheading, that Carton himself con-firms his "messianic impersonation."

There, at the execution, Carton offers verbal affirmation of his role as a Christ figure. While being conveyed to the Guillotine, Carton gazes at a church that he passes, the house of God, and asks himself, "'Has he sacrificed me?'" (461). Carton questions God's decision to end his life in much the same way as Jesus does with his final cry of "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?". Yet both Carton and Christ make the ultimate sacrifice; they are confident that their lives are not truly at an end. As he dies, Carton makes one final utterance, a passage from the Bible spoken by Jesus; he calls himself "'the resurrection and the life'" (464). Not only does Carton see himself as a Jesus figure, but he hopes that by emulating Christ, God will resurrect him. By giving up his life for Darnay, Carton actually seems to be giving his life to Darnay. This life becomes physically manifest when Darnay and his wife give birth to a child who "bears [Sydney Carton's] name" and follows the "path of life which once was [Sydney's]" (465). This child of Darnay's is the reincarnation of Sydney's spirit, though his appearance may not mirror Carton's. As in Carton's resurrection, Christ's spirit was given a new body, a body unrecognizable as his former self. The people of France see Christ's countenance in Sydney following his death; they say that he "look[s] sublime and prophetic" (464). As with Jesus, the people recognize Carton for what he has become only after his death. His demise enlightens them to his status as a sacrificial lamb and causes them to feel remorse for his murder. Carton's "sublime and prophetic" appearance echoes Christ's majesty and holiness, while also reflecting the divine aspect of Sydney himself.

Before his death, Carton is an ordinary human being with ordinary troubles and ordinary feelings-it is his personal and selfless sacrifice that makes him extraordi-nary. His willingness to die to ensure the survival of his loved ones earns him the right to be called a savior. Those who follow a road of self sacrifice and service to mankind are Earth's saviors; the fate of humanity rests upon their shoulders.
698 words / 3 pages

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