Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
Dr. Alexandre Manette
Dr. Manette is a French physician. He was thrown in prison and left to die there for eighteen years, because he witnessed a crime committed by the Evremonde brothers and had tried to report it to the authorities. His imprisonment and release are the hub around which the story revolves. Dr. Manette's long solitary confinement leads to loss of memory, temporary insanity, and premature aging. At the time of his release, he can only call himself by his cell number, one hundred and five, and occupies himself by cobbling shoes.
The love and care of his daughter Lucie nurture Dr. Manette back to health and normality. However, there are times when he lapses into his earlier state, usually caused by some terrible memory or association related to his imprisonment. In truth, Dr. Manette struggles between a normal life style and a desire for vengeance against the Evremonde.
When his loving daughter marries an Evremonde, Dr. Manette is a torn man. He decides, however, to put aside his vengeful feelings in order to ensure the happiness of Lucie. When Darnay is arrested in France, he does everything in his power to save his son-in-law. He is proud when he accomplishes his release during the first trial; when he fails to save Darnay after his second arrest, he looks for his old cobbler's bench, seeking an escape from his failure.
Dr. Manette is one of the truly dynamic characters in the book. His changes during the course of the novel are total and complete. At the beginning of the plot, he is isolated and demented due to his long, solitary imprisonment. He changes into a bright, kind and loving man, thanks to the affections and care of his daughter Lucie. Throughout the first part of the novel, Dr. Manette is also plagued by his unstated desire for revenge against the Evremondes. By the end of the novel, he has destroyed all thoughts of vengeance and tries everything in his power to save an Evremonde, his son-in-law Darnay. Manette is a much happier man when he is ruled by love instead of hatred.
Lucie is a typical Victorian heroine who is beautiful, gentle, frail, and given to fainting under stress; but she has a remarkable inner strength that is derived from practicing Christian virtues. She shows love and compassion for all mankind; in return, she is very admired and loved. Although she is only seventeen when she hears that her father is alive, she goes to Paris to meet him, brings him back to London, and successfully nurses him back to health and happiness.
She is a reluctant witness at Darnay's trial and emphasizes the way he helped her. She does not scorn or reject Carton when he declares his love for her; while admitting that she cannot reciprocate his feelings, she implores him to change his wasteful ways, assuring him that he has value. Lucie is so pure and noble that everyone who encounters her seems transformed.
Lucie is also a pillar of strength and patience, accepting her tribulations and sorrows. She sympathizes with the plight of her demented father and never gives up on him. When she learns that her husband has been arrested in France, she heads to Paris in spite of the revolution. When Darnay is headed to the guillotine, she never sheds a tear in his presence, not wanting to add to his misery. She keeps both family and friends together through her strength and love. Lucie is truly the "golden thread" that unites, in a benevolent way, the various characters in the story.
Defarge is a victim of aristocratic tyranny and rages against the upper class. Good-humored by nature, Defarge becomes secretive, angry, and dangerous due to his hatred of the nobility and his strong desire for revenge. Because of his passion and spurred on by his evil wife, he becomes the leader of the revolutionary cause. He, however, is a moderate compared to Madame Defarge. He even pleads with his wife for Darnay's life, but to no avail.
Madame Defarge, with her strong body, strong face, and strong features, likens herself to the wind, to fire, and to an earthquake. Like these natural force that are violent and cannot be stopped, Madame Defarge is ruthless and unstoppable. She is the "watchful eye" of the revolution, always observant and aware of what is going on, although she often appears to be aloof and unconcerned. She is usually seen knitting on her "register" that lists the names of aristocratic families that must perish in the revolution. During the course of the novel, Madame Defarge actually become the symbol of the revolution, with all of its hatred and desire for vengeance.
Under her calm exterior, Madame Defarge hides a passionate anger that will not be satisfied until she gets her revenge on the aristocracy, especially the Evremonde family, who is responsible for the deaths of her brother and sister. She is determined that Darnay will be executed for being an Evremonde by birth and determines his wife and child must also perish. When she finds out they have escaped, she is beside herself with anger. Wanting proof that Lucie is indeed not hiding in her room, she struggles with Miss Pross. Ironically, during the struggle her own gun falls to the floor and discharges, killing Madame Defarge immediately.