Montag, 6. Februar 2012

Sydney Carton, my hero - February Prompt

This is my entry for the February Prompt of November's Autumn's Classic Challenge and since I have just finished Dickens's amazing A Tale of Two Cities and have tons to say about a certain drunkard, I'll devote this post to one of the most impressing characters ever: Sydney Carton.

Those are the questions, but I am only going to follow them roughly:
Level 1
What phrases has the author used to introduce this character? What are your first impressions of them? Find a portrait or photograph that closely embodies how you imagine them.

Level 2
How has the character changed? Has your opinion of them altered? Are there aspects of their character you aspire to? or hope never to be? What are their strengths and faults? Do you find them believable? If not, how could they have been molded so? Would you want to meet them?

Level 3
Try writing a short (four sentences +) note or letter as the character, addressed to you, another character, the author, anyone.
Sydney Carton is first introduced during the trial of (innocent) Charles Darnay, he is his attorney, together with Mr. Stryver. While Mr. Stryver does most of the talking and Sydney appears to not even pay attention, he is the one who ultimately turns the case around and saves the accused.
Mr. Carton, who had so long sat looking at the ceiling of the court, changed neither his place nor his attitude, even in this excitement. While his teamed friend, Mr. Stryver, massing his papers before him, whispered with those who sat near, and from time to time glanced anxiously at the jury; while all the spectators moved more or less, and grouped themselves anew; while even my Lord himself arose from his seat, and slowly paced up and down his platform, not unattended by a suspicion in the minds of the audience that his state was feverish; this one man sat leaning back, with his torn gown half off him, his untidy wig put on just as it had happened to fight on his head after its removal, his hands in his pockets, and his eyes on the ceiling as they had been all day. Something especially reckless in his demeanour, not only gave him a disreputable look, but so diminished the strong resemblance he undoubtedly bore to the prisoner (which his momentary earnestness, when they were compared together, had strengthened), that many of the lookers-on, taking note of him now, said to one another they would hardly have thought the two were so alike. Mr. Cruncher made the observation to his next neighbour, and added, "I'd hold half a guinea that he don't get no law-work to do. Don't look like the sort of one to get any, do he?"
Yet, this Mr. Carton took in more of the details of the scene than he appeared to take in; for now, when Miss Manette's head dropped upon her father's breast, he was the first to see it, and to say audibly: "Officer! look to that young lady. Help the gentleman to take her out. Don't you see she will fall!"
So, although he appears to be simply a good-for-nothing, we are quickly shown that there is much more behind his reckless manner than visible at first.

Mr. Carton, lonely to the right

Mr. Carton initially hates Charles Darnay because he sees in him everything he could have been. He sees his life as irredeemably wasted and although he drinks to forget what a miserable life he is leading, he insists that he cannot change it. Sydney Carton is convinced that there is nothing good or honourable in him and therefore he does not interfere when Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay marry, even though he is madly in love with her. He is convinced that he as a melancholy, wasted drunkard would only bring her down and he loves her too much to burden her with him. So when he finally breaks down and confesses her his love, he does not expect (not even hope) that Lucie returns his affection, he says:  "I have known myself to be quite undeserving. And yet I have had the weakness, and have still the weakness, to wish you to know with what a sudden mastery you kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire--a fire, however, inseparable in its nature from myself, quickening nothing, lighting nothing, doing no service, idly burning away."
If you find no other reason to read this book, do it for Sydney's confession. It is one of the most beautiful and saddest declarations of love in the whole of literature at the same time.
At the end of the book Sydney willingly sacrifices his own life through switching places with Charles Darnay and going to the guillotine instead of him. He does it out of his love for Lucie, but what impressed me the most is that he does it without telling anyone. His beloved Lucie doesn't learn of his heroic deed until after his death, she cannot even thank him or tell him good bye. In the last days of his life the hero he has been at his heart all the time finally shows, because through sacrificing himself he proves his own conviction of being worthless wrong.
This is a letter Sydney Carton could have written before being executed, I know it won't be as good as Dickens's style of writing, but don't judge me too harshly.
My beloved Lucie,
I wish you to know that these last breaths I take are the happiest I have taken since I grew to manhood. I am walking to the doom of my body knowing that my soul will live on in your life, and in the lives of all those who are dear to your heart and for whom I shall cease to breathe joyously.
I hold a desire in my heart which burns even though my mind knows it to burn needlessly; the desire to ask you to never forget me. It is needless because I know you, most graceful creature whose feet have ever touched this impure ground, to be a loyal and unwavering soul and I foresee that you will weep more for my soon uncaged spirit than I could ever have the honour to deserve.
One last thought, my dear: Even though I lay down my life for yours and your husband's and your children's (for who knows if little Lucie shall not be blessed with an infant brother soon?), it is really you who is my saviour.
For your sake I have perhaps not lived my life in vain despite all my wandering and it is only through my love for you that I will find resurrection. 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.

For ever your devoted servant,
Sydney Carton


  1. Guten Tag! So great that I found your blog via November's Autumn, since I speak ein bischen Deutsch myself. I still need to force myself to read more of Tale of Two Cities, I just couldn't get into it in those first few chapters!

    1. Hey there! Vielen Dank for following! You seem to speak mehr als nur ein bisschen Deutsch! :)
      I have to encourage everbody in the world to read this book, I know that the beginning is slow, but like with most of Dickens's books it is so worth it if you hold on! Believe me, by the third chapter or at least the fourth it is already intriguing (definitely from the moment on when Mr. Carton is introduced!)
      Viel Glück und bis bald!

  2. I have not read any Dickens. Shame. However, I will make a start, this year, to remedy this.

    1. Do this! I have only read two of his novels by now, but they have already changed my world! I find it impossible to read something else after finishing A Tale of Two Cities though, I've tried several books and found them all bad in comparison! :)

  3. I looooove Sidney Carton! So glad to see other readers appreciate him too. :)

    1. Oh yeah! Who needs Mr. Darcies and Edward Cullens if they can have Sydney Carton?! I'm also glad to see that I'm not alone in my devotion of him! ;)

  4. Tale of Two Cities is my favourite Dickens to date. I read it last year and fell in love with it. How can anyone not love Sidney Carton? That end scene is one of my favourites of all times. He is not only sacrificing himself but he manages to give strength to those around him as he does it. Love him!

  5. A huge hooray for our Sydney-Carton-love!!! I am so glad that I've found a companion in my devotional madness :D

  6. I got goosebumps! It makes me want to read the book again.

  7. Despite being a great fan of Jane Austen I never found Mr Darcy attractive and can't understand the complete fascination people have for him in general. I'm looking forward to reading A Tale of Two Cities later this year.
    Thank you for your post, Cassandra.