Resurrection: Literal or Figurative?

By , New Orleans, LA

Usually, when a person hears the word “resurrection”, they think of Jesus, who actually came back to life three days after he died. Other than Him and a few other people in the bible, no one has literally come back to life since. In Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, resurrection is used often, but in a figurative way. In the book, when a person is released from prison, Dickens refers to it as being “recalled to life,” meaning they get a second chance. Three characters that are resurrected in A Tale of Two Cities are Doctor Alexandre Manette, Charles Darnay, and Sydney Carton.  


Doctor Manette is the first person we see in the book who is “resurrected.” Twenty years before the setting of the book, the Doctor was arrested and imprisoned in a solitary tower. In those twenty years, he lost his sanity, his profession, his pride, and his dignity. His life had been stolen from him. The doctor never got to see his daughter grow up. He was never allowed to see anyone. All he had was a little shoemaking bench to make shoes for people who did not exist. Until the doctor was released, he had nothing and no one to live for. Then, he meets his daughter Lucie, who brings him back to life with her love and patience. It takes a few years, but Doctor Manette lives again.


Charles Darnay never died, but he might as well have been a dead man. During the French Revolution, he takes a trip to France from England for a few important legal manners. He ends up getting arrested for being an immigrant- which is ironic because he was born in France. Shortly after his arrest, Lucie, her daughter, and the Doctor Manette himself move to France to see if they can get Charles out of prison. Darnay ends up staying prison for a little over year and three months. The Doctor is able to keep Darnay alive, but not release him. Darnay later has a trial where he was pronounced free, but then is soon put back in jail. He gets a trial, but is sentenced to death by guillotine. The day he is to die, Sydney Carton comes into cell, makes him switch clothes with him, drugs him, and takes his place for death. Charles Darnay, a man who might as well have been dead, was saved by the actions of a man who loves Charles’s own wife.


Sydney Carton was dead his whole life, until he comes back to life only to die. Carton falls in love with Lucie Manette, also known as Darnay’s wife. He knows that Lucie would never fall for him, so he makes her a promise: “For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that a better kind that there was an opportunity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you.” (book 2, ch. 13 pg. 173). When Carton finds out that Darnay is to die, he make a plan to save Darnay. Since he and Darnay look very much alike, Carton selflessly and secretly takes Darnay’s place the morning of his execution after switching clothes with him and drugging him. He gives Lorry his identification papers for an unconscious Darnay to use. Carton never went to prison, but he was a dead man walking all his life. His love for Lucie and his selflessness resurrected him and saved him from the fire.


In Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, Darnay, Carton, and Doctor Manette are three examples of characters who are resurrected. Doctor Manette is brought back to life by Lucie’s love and support. Darnay is saved from the blade by Carton’s love for Lucie. And finally, Carton is resurrected by his selfless actions and his care for Lucie. Dickens wanted to show that resurrection does not just happen to people who are forgiving, but to people who are being forgiven. Resurrection happened to Jesus so he could save us, but figurative resurrection happened to them so they could be saved.






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