The Theme of Resurrection in 'A Tale of Two Cities'
In A Tale of Two Cities, deep symbolism and complex themes are an integral part played by the book to capture the reader's attention and fill one with a sense of intrigue. One of the most recognizable is the theme of resurrection. Throughout the novel, characters and situations again and again allude to rising to a new life. Most prominently so are Alexandre Manette, Charles Darnay, and Sydney Carton.
Book I of A Tale of Two Cities is centered mostly on the rescue of Alexandre Manette from the horrid French prison, the Bastille; thus, it is titled “Recalled to Life”. Alexandre Manette once had a full life; one of peace and contentment. Imprisoned unjustly, his intellect—and all that was sane in his brilliant mind—dies. Enter Lucie Manette, his daughter, glowing with life and youth. Her love and patience, and simply the realization that she is his daughter, brings Manette back to sanity and health; in a sense, back to life.
Alexandre Manette is not, however, the only person whose life Lucie touches. Charles Darnay also is influenced, to the point of asking Lucie to marry him—and bring new life into the world. Lucie accepts, and thus forms a family tie that will prove essential when Darnay becomes imprisoned in later years. Also essential for Darnay's rescue is the wit of Sydney Carton; who, through saving him from imprisonment, has once before brought Darnay a resurrection. Carton's growing heroism—and love for Lucie—spurs him on to again rescue Darnay from inevitable death, to bring him back to a beautiful new life of safety in England.
Carton himself believes he will never rise to a new life. Yet, through his willingness to face death, he raises himself to something greater. And by giving Darnay back to the loving arms of Manette and Lucie, he opens the door to a long, beautiful life for them all, and the generation to come. Despite the life of waste he once lived, he gains something eternal by his sacrifice. He realizes this, speaking his last beautiful thoughts: “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.”
As the immortal words run through Carton's head while he nears the guillotine—“I am the Resurrection and the Life”—we are assured that Carton, by his death, was also raised to a new life; where perhaps one day he will again see those whom he gave all for.