A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

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Sydney Carton Character Analysis

In his youth, Sydney Carton wasted his great potential and mysteriously lost a woman he loved. Now he's a drunk and a lawyer who takes no credit for his work. Carton has no hope for his life. Only Lucie understands his potential for goodness. In his selfless dedication to her and her family, Carton represents the transformative power of love. His self-sacrifice at the end of the novel makes him a Christ figure. By saving Lucie's family, Carton redeems himself from sin and lives on in their grateful memory.

Sydney Carton Quotes in A Tale of Two Cities

The A Tale of Two Cities quotes below are all either spoken by Sydney Carton or refer to Sydney Carton. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of A Tale of Two Cities published in 2003.
Book 2, Chapter 5 Quotes
Waste forces within him, and a desert all around, this man stood still on his way across a silent terrace, and saw for a moment, lying in the wilderness before him, a mirage of honourable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance. In the fair city of this vision, there were airy galleries from which the loves and graces looked upon him, gardens in which the fruits of life hung ripening, waters of Hope that sparkled in his sight. A moment, and it was gone. Climbing to a high chamber in a well of houses, he threw himself down in his clothes on a neglected bed, and its pillow was wet with wasted tears.
Related Characters: Sydney Carton
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

Carton is obviously in a more powerful position than Charles, who is on trial for his life, and yet Carton still envies the man, who seems to incarnate that "ambition, self-denial, and perseverance" that he has somehow lost. It is not clear exactly what has happened to Sydney Carton that has made him go awry: here, the narrator uses largely metaphorical language to suggest the gap between Carton's still romanticized, hopeful desires, and the state in which he now finds himself. Carton imagines just for an instant a kind of heaven on earth, but this vision cannot be reconciled with the "wilderness" that mostly directs his life.

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Book 2, Chapter 13 Quotes
For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long in coming, when new ties will be formed about you […] O Miss Manette, […] when you see your own bright beauty springing up anew at your feet, think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you!
Related Characters: Sydney Carton (speaker), Lucie Manette
Page Number: 159
Explanation and Analysis:

Sydney Carton has gone to visit Lucie and finds himself proclaiming his love for her, at the same time that he recognizes, though in a way that is excruciating for him, how little he deserves her because of his (still mysterious) past. Lucie nonetheless expresses a conviction that Carton can lead a better life. Here, Carton expresses his profound gratefulness to Lucie by vowing to sacrifice anything for her, even his life. 

Carton's words seem to foretell a moment in the future of great change for Lucie. Perhaps he is thinking of Stryver, or perhaps he's simply realized that Lucie should and will marry someone who deserves her, but he wants to make sure that she knows of his feelings for her. Even if he doesn't realize it, Carton is in fact prophetic, as his vow of sacrifice will indeed have to be tested later on in the novel.

Book 3, Chapter 8 Quotes
Miss Pross recalled soon afterwards, and to the end of her life remembered, that as she pressed her hands on Sydney's arm and looked up in his face, imploring him to do no hurt to Solomon, there was a braced purpose in the arm and a kind of inspiration in the eyes, which not only contradicted his light manner, but changed and raised the man.
Related Characters: Sydney Carton, John Barsad (a.k.a Solomon Pross), Miss Pross
Page Number: 310
Explanation and Analysis:

Sydney Carton has appeared almost out of nowhere and has identified John Barsad to Jerry as Solomon Pross, an opportunistic man who has no principles and will easily betray one side to another. However, he is also the brother of Lucie's servant Miss Pross, and before dealing with Solomon, Carton escorts Miss Pross back home, showing himself to be gallant and polite.

Unlike Solomon, Carton understands that the bonds of family and love can be powerful, so he doesn't dismiss Miss Pross's entreaties to him not to hurt Solomon. Miss Pross is impressed by the inner light and inspiration that seem to emanate from Sydney Carton – a sense of the man that we haven't really seen in him earlier in the book. She does sense the contradiction of this light with his easygoing manner, but this only further makes her recognize how much he must have changed.

Book 3, Chapter 15 Quotes
"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."
Related Characters: Sydney Carton (speaker)
Page Number: 389
Explanation and Analysis:

Earlier, the narrator has suggested that the figure of the Christian cross, signifying forgiveness, resurrection, and sacrifice for a greater cause, has been replaced by the ruthless terror of the guillotine. Now, Sydney Carton's monumental sacrifice suggests that all is not lost. Here, Carton repeats lines spoken by Jesus in the New Testament Gospels, and also repeated at Sunday mass for Christians. As he comforts another woman sentenced to death, and prepares to die himself, he draws solace from these words of faith.

Carton shows himself committed to an alternative view of justice and redemption than that located in the indiscriminate violence of the revolution, and in so doing he offers the hope that a new life, even on Earth as well, might be possible. The novel has powerfully portrayed how violence leads only to more violence, how injustice leads to more injustice, in a kind of historical fate that is impossible to escape. But Carton's sacrifice, following the spirit of Jesus's long ago sacrifice, offers the possibility of a way to end that vicious cycle of violence, through the Christian ideals of forgiveness, mercy, love, and sacrifice.

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Sydney Carton Character Timeline in A Tale of Two Cities

The timeline below shows where the character Sydney Carton appears in A Tale of Two Cities. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 2
Fate and History Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
...French spy, is defended by two lawyers: Mr. Stryver and the insolent and bored-looking Mr. Carton. When Darnay glances at a young woman and her father sitting nearby (Lucie and Dr.... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 3
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
...while Mr. Stryver is unsuccessfully cross-examining a witness who has been called to identify Charles, Carton hands Stryver a note. After reading from the note, Stryver forces the court to notice... (full context)
Imprisonment Theme Icon
The jury goes to deliberate. Carton continues to look bored, stirring only to order help when he notices Lucie start to... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 4
Fate and History Theme Icon
A drunk Sydney Carton emerges from the shadows. His shabby clothes and impertinent manners offend Mr. Lorry, who departs.... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 5
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...to climb the professional ladder. Due to his problem distilling information, he partnered with Sydney Carton, who now secretly does all the work for Stryver to win his cases. If Stryver... (full context)
Sacrifice Theme Icon
After leaving the tavern where he dined with Charles, Carton joins Stryver in his apartment. To stay awake, he wraps a wet towel around his... (full context)
Fate and History Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Afterwards, Stryver and Carton drink and talk. Stryver comments on Carton's moodiness and lack of direction, which have been... (full context)
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After leaving Stryver, Carton stumbles home through the grey dawn, imagining for a moment a city of hope, full... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 6
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Sydney Carton also visits. Sitting out on the veranda as a storm approaches, Lucie tells him that... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 10
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
...Manettes' home and bind Lucie closer to her father. Dr. Manette suspects that Stryver and Carton are also interested in Lucie, but promises to vouch for Charles's love for Lucie should... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 11
Sacrifice Theme Icon
That same night, as Sydney Carton plows through heaps of legal papers, Mr. Stryver announces that he intends to get married.... (full context)
Resurrection Theme Icon
Because Carton had previously (though insincerely) insulted Lucie, Stryver breaks the news to him carefully: he plans... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 13
Although his awkward social skills obscure it, Sydney Carton loves to visit the Manette house. After Mr. Stryver informs him that he's given up... (full context)
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
Lucie is astonished when Carton breaks into tears over his wasted life during the visit. She asks if she can... (full context)
Fate and History Theme Icon
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Carton tells Lucie he loves her, that she is "the last dream of [his] soul." But... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 20
Resurrection Theme Icon
...first person to visit Lucie and Charles after they return from their honeymoon is Sydney Carton. Carton apologizes for his drunkenness during past encounters, and asks for Charles' friendship. Carton declares... (full context)
Fate and History Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
At dinner that night, Charles comments to Lucie, Manette, Mr. Lorry, and Miss Pross about Carton's careless and reckless behavior. Later that night in their room, Lucie suggests that Charles was... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 21
Fate and History Theme Icon
...from the street below. She gives birth to a daughter, Lucie, who particularly likes Sydney Carton. Her second child, a son, dies in childhood. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 8
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Sydney Carton, appearing out of nowhere, tells Jerry the name he is trying to remember: John Barsad.... (full context)
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Carton and Jerry escort John Barsad to Tellson's Bank, where Mr. Lorry also recognizes him. Carton... (full context)
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
...that Cly's body wasn't in his coffin. Barsad realizes he's caught and agrees to help. Carton takes him into an adjoining room to talk. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 9
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
After a while, Barsad leaves and Carton explains to Mr. Lorry that if Charles is convicted, Barsad will smuggle Carton into Charles's... (full context)
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
Carton visits a pharmacy and buys a mysterious packet of drugs that the chemist warns are... (full context)
Sacrifice Theme Icon
...a young girl, whom he helps across the street. She kisses him, and once more Carton remembers the prayer. (full context)
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Carton arrives at the courthouse the next morning for Charles's trial, where Jacques Three is the... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 11
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Lucie faints. Carton carries her to a carriage and escorts her home. There, he instructs Dr. Manette to... (full context)
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
Lucie's daughter begs Carton to help. Carton embraces her and, before he leaves, kisses the unconscious Lucie and whispers,... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 12
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Sydney Carton decides to make sure he is seen around Paris. He eventually wanders into a wine... (full context)
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Carton eavesdrops on a conversation between Defarge, Madame Defarge, The Vengeance, and Jacques Three, in which... (full context)
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
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Carton hurries home. Soon, Dr. Manette returns too, begging for his shoemaker's bench. Shocked, Carton and... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 13
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
...to Dr. Manette. He also writes to Mr. Lorry, but never thinks to write to Carton. (full context)
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
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Resurrection Theme Icon
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Suddenly John Barsad opens the cell door and lets in Carton. Carton tells Charles to start changing clothes with him. Then Carton dictates a letter for... (full context)
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
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As Charles writes, Carton waves the packet of drugs under his nose. Charles passes out. Carton finishes swapping their... (full context)
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
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Soon the guards arrive and take Carton, whom they think is Charles Evrémonde, out to join the other condemned prisoners. A young... (full context)
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
...the papers of the passengers in a carriage: Mr. Lorry, Dr. Manette, Lucie, and "Sydney Carton," who is unconscious. They wave the carriage through. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 15
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
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The young woman is scheduled to be beheaded by the guillotine just before Carton. She thanks Carton for helping her stay composed, and says he must have been sent... (full context)
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
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The narrator describes Carton's final thoughts. He recognizes that Barsad, The Vengeance, and all the "new oppressors" will die... (full context)