The Search for Truth in A Tale of Two Cities
"Since before the ancient Greeks, mankind has striven to discern and define truth, a noble if somewhat arduous task"( Swisher 118). Even modern society, despite losing so many of the old, "prudish" morals of preceding generations, still holds truth as one of the greatest virtues and to find truth in life, one of the greatest accomplishments. Authors such as Charles Dickens reflect this great desire to seek and find truth, using many varying mediums to express their opinions or discoveries. From the opening lines of the book, Dickens uses the method of thematic opposition to illustrate pure truth and evil lies. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens consistently opposes characters, settings, and even his theme of revolution, presenting juxtaposed viewpoints and actions that demonstrate deeper truths about life.
Two characters Dickens sets in opposition are Madame Defarge and Lucie Manette. Although Lucie Manette grew up an orphan after her mother died and her father lay languishing anonymously in a prison cell of the Bastille, although she suffered irreparable harm, Lucie Manette always finds within herself the ability to forgive wrongs and love other people. She looks for the best in every human heart and inspires those around her to love and achieve great, nearly impossible goals. Lucie Manette always appears in the form of light, often receiving the appellation of "angel." She provides a soothing disposition to those in torment, patiently listening to sorrows and misdeeds while forgiving and encouraging the miscreant to better ways. Even though she cannot reform Sidney Carton, he realizes that she, more than anyone, would have that power; however, he feels he is already too far gone down a bad path to turn back and begin anew. He realizes, " ëYou would have reclaimed me if anything could. You will not be the cause of my becoming worseÖThe utmost good that I am capable of now, Miss Manette, I have come here to realize' " (Dickens 139). Unknowingly, Miss Manette's simple nature inspires love and aspirations filled with such generosity that eventually this great, inspired love saves her life and the lives of those dearest to her. Rising from a bitter and forlorn childhood, Miss Manette rises to great heights by following the path of love and forgiveness while she could turn bitter instead.
Madame Defarge, on the other hand, is the root of all evil, leaving destruction in her wake wherever she goes. She derives her justification for the misdeeds she commits from the wrongs she and her family suffered while she was yet a child. Ever since the noble family of the EvrÈmondes raped her sister and killed her brother while he was defending his honor, Madame Defarge has sworn revenge upon the perpetrators of the crime as well as the descendents for as long as she lives. Instead of showing restraint and womanly pity, she lashes out violently...