A Tale of Two Cities:
Roles of Minor Characters
Every story in the history of literature has one or more characters that are not as significant as other characters. Although these characters arent as important, they serve to advance the plot or are symbolically important. There are definitely numerous depictions of these characters in A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. Two examples are Lucie Manette Darnay and Miss Pross. Both of these flat characters are important in the development of the story.
Lucie Manette Darnay played an important and symbolic role in the novel. Dickens described her as the golden thread of the novel, weaving its good throughout the plot. Along with her good nature, she was also young and attractive. Dickens described her as having:
a short, slight, pretty figure, a quantity of golden hair, and a pair of blue eyesand a forehead with a singular capacityof lifting and knitting itself into an expression that was not quite one of perplexity, or wonder, or alarm, or merely of a bright fixed attention, though it included all the four expressions. (Dickens 17)
Dickens created Lucie to be an ideal rather than a real woman. She represented all that is good in humanityinnocence, kindness, faith, and hopeand she served as a touchstone for other characters to find those qualities within themselves. Lucie is a loving and devoted wife to Charles Darnay. After Darnays death sentence she tells him:
We shall not be separated long. I feel that this will break my heart by-and-by; but I will do my duty while I can, and when I leave her, God will raise up friends for her, as He did for me. (272)
Lucie is obviously a symbol for good and righteousness. She is the golden thread that binds the other characters together. She is protected by Miss Pross, devoted to her father, Doctor Manette, loved by Sydney Carton, a friend of Mr. Lorry, and was married to Charles Darnay.
Another minor character significant to the story is Madame Defarge. Defarge is the antithesis of Lucie. Defarges entire family perished when she was a young girl. She possesses an extreme vengeance towards the people who killed them. She condemned not only the people that did it, but also the entire Evremonde family line to which the murderers were from. She would inscribe the names into her knitting registry of people she doomed to death. Her drive to attain retribution drove her to commit horrible acts. Her evil mind set is exemplified in the following:
When the time comes, let loose a tiger and a devil; but wait for the time with the tiger and the devil chainednot shown, yet always ready. (Dickens 165)
Her hatred and sense of revenge have evoked evil thoughts and actions in Defarge. Symbolically, Madame Defarge stands for the intensity and bloodthirst behind the Revolution. Her views of the optimal course of the Revolution are revealed in a dialogue between her, her husband, and the Jacques Three:
It is true what Madame says, observed Jacques Three.
Why stop? There is great force in that. Why stop?
Well, well, reasoned Defarge, but one must stop
somewhere. After all, the question is still where?
At extermination, said Madame. (317)
Her relentless drive for vengeance makes her strong, but it eventually destroys her because she is unable to comprehend the powerful love that gives Carton the strength to die for Darnay, and Miss Pross the courage to defeat her.
In conclusion, minor characters are included in the story for a reason. Each character has a purpose, large or small, that is symbolic or advances the plot. Lucie and Defarge, although opposites in character, played equal parts in their fulfillment of the story. Dickens knew that for every good there must be evil, for every light there must be dark, and for every Lucie Manette Darnay there must be a Madame Defarge.
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