A Tale of Two Cities, involves many complicated situations in which the characters must choose between chance or death, career or family, honor or revenge. As a result, ambiguity has evolved in multiple characters because of these difficult choices. Two prominently ambiguous characters are John Barsad and Monsieur Defarge. While Barsad recognizes the importance of career and honor, Defarge sees more prominence in family and revenge.
John Barsad’s ambiguity is demonstrated by two contrasting qualities: devotion to his job as a spy and neglect for his family. His devotion to his job as an English spy causes him to appear as a heroic figure. In order to protect his identity, for instance, he accepted Sydney Carton’s offer to help rescue Darnay. During the process of Carton’s changing into Darnay’s clothes, Barsad could have denounced Carton and Darnay for rebelling against authority, which would diminish all hope of ever returning Lucie Manette’s husband to her, but Barsad kept his word by risking his life to help Carton and Darnay. If he denounced Carton, Carton would denounce his identity as a spy, but if Barsad kept silent and helped Carton, Carton would in turn keep silent about Barsad’s identity. Although Barsad’s decision to keep silent involved the risk of being suspected as a French traitor, his decision indicates his devotion to his job; He would risk death rather than fail as a spy. Despite his inclination to his occupation, however, Barsad is portrayed as a “heartless scoundrel” (A Tale of Two Cities pg 100). He neglects his sister and “stripped her of everything she possessed” (pg 100), claiming that he is “busy” (pg 307) working as an “official” (pg 307). His devotion for his job over his family illustrates his selfishness and lack of love for family, which causes him to appear to the readers as a villain. Barsad’s heroic quality of devotion for his occupation combined with his cruel quality of neglect for his family causes Barsad to be interpreted as an ambiguous figure.
Barsad’s ambiguity contributes to the theme of loyalty to the nation. His commitment to his job as an English spy demonstrates his loyalty to England. Barsad was faced with the situation of risking death or denouncing Carton to gain the upper hand in their “desperate game” (pg 311-312). He chose to risk death over gaining the upper hand because he would prefer to die as an honorable man of England who did his best to perform his duties for England rather than die as a coward who stood for himself. His decision indicates his devotion to England; he would give his life to England rather than save himself.
Barsad’s neglect of his sister demonstrates another level of loyalty to the nation. He is more protective of his identity and his job than he is of his sister’s state of welfare. In this situation, he is faced with the situation of choosing two important aspects of life---his family or his pursuance of his career as an English spy. His cruel...