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Sacrifice is giving up something for the benefit of another someone or something. Whether the sacrifice is an artifact, words, plans, or life. These things are traditionally given up for the bettering of something else. Struggling parents might sacrifice their meal in order for their children to eat, or make great financial sacrifices to be able to send their children to college. In the story Tale of Two Cities, author Charles Dickens uses the theme of sacrifice to promote his message that sacrifice is necessary to achieve happiness.
Dickens’ view of sacrifice is heavily based on the biblical view of sacrifice. Christians believe Jesus Christ, the son of God, was crucified on the cross in order to save sinners from sin; As well as give them an opportunity to go to heaven where all is good. One emphasis of this outlook is the character, Sydney Carton.
Carton is introduced as a young, sloppy, drunk who is ironically a brilliant lawyer. In fact, Carton is the one who does most of Stryver’s work for him but Stryver is given the credit for it.
Carton and Stryver are hired to work on a case for Charles Darnay, who is facing imprisonment for treason. During the trial in court, Sydney Carton notices Lucie Manette who causes Carton to instantly feel what he cannot describe for her.
After successfully saving Darnay from imprisonment, Carton invites him to have drinks. Carton notices how Darnay looked at Lucie during the meeting and he tells Darnay to make a toast to Lucie.
The tension between them is unignorable for they both sense they both have feelings for Lucie.
One day, Carton finds Lucie alone. She asks him what the matter is. He responds that his life is miserable and hopeless. He then confesses his love for her but acknowledges that Lucie could never love someone like him. He departs promising her he would do anything for her happiness. “For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you” (Dickens 189).
Carton keeps this promise by making the ultimate sacrifice for Lucie’s happiness. After Sydney Carton finds out about Charles Darnay’s scheduled execution he decides he will sacrifice his life instead of for the happiness of Lucy Manette and her family. Before going through with his plan of trading places with Darnay he is repeatedly portrayed saying “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die" (Dickens 392) This ties back into Dicken’s view of sacrifice is based on the Biblical view of sacrifice.
Another example of Dickens’ message of needing a sacrifice to achieve happiness is Charles Darnay. Charles is a French aristocrat with a conscience. He originally had the surname of St. Evrémonde. The St. Evrémondes were extremely wealthy and were made to portray the way aristocrats in France extorted and helped keep the peasants of France in poverty. Charles travels to France to visit his uncle, the Marquis St. Evrémonde. The Marquis suggests that he is brought into the trial because people hate him because he’s so much better than they are. Charles does not agree. Declaring that he’s renounced his relationship with the Evrémonde family, Charles begs his uncle to repair some of the damage that the family has done to those around them.
Charles says that his mother’s dying wish was that the family would right some of the wrongs they’ve caused. The Marquis laughs and Charles then declares that he gives up his rights to the Evrémonde land. Charles makes the sacrifice of wealth and superiority and because of doing so he ultimately goes on happily ever after. He is saved in all of his trials, lives with a more clear conscience, courts and marries Lucie Manette, creating a family of his own, and is able to separate himself from his tarnished family name.
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