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Sunday, February 23, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Defending Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette-Darnay

Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay, A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette-Darnay tend to get a lot of flak in both the period drama/classic literature blogosphere and the critics' circle and I can understand the reason for some of it. They aren't the most three-dimensional characters (at least not in Lucie's case) and Charles often falls to the side when compared to Sydney (although, Sydney isn't exactly a gentleman for most of the book, and Charles is...more on that in a bit) mostly because of the self-sacrificing thing and also because Sydney is a well-rounded character. I used to share the majority's opinion of Charles and Lucie, but after reading through the book for English Literature, which had me delve deeper into the meaning and symbolism and all that, my thoughts changed to a more favourable way.

And, after all, what's one of these themed weeks without a defence post? I always do one :) I was actually going to do one for Madame Defarge, but then decided that since she does have a lot of evilness in her (for just evilness' sake, in most cases), she wouldn't make the best person to defend. In my opinion, it was different when I defended Guy during Robin Hood week, because he redeems himself and, really, he's a more sympathetic character. But if you're intrigued by Mme. Defarge like I am, don't worry. I have a post about her and her husband coming later on this week. For right now, though, I'll be talking about Charles and Lucie. Mostly Charles, but some of Lucie too (I'll be pulling information from the musical, as well as the book, just so you know).

Charles is the main character in A Tale Of Two Cities, in my opinion, although some people probably won't agree with me. Much of the story is told in his point of view and it's his being an Evremonde that really drives the plot. The musical downplays his role, at least to some extent, which I think is a shame because it would have been fantastic to see book Charles really played out well on-stage. But it is Sydney who carries the plot in the musical (he has three solos. Count 'em – three!). And while I don't really have a problem with that, it would be interesting to see how the musical would change if Charles were the main character. use crying over split milk :) 

Book Charles has several good qualities to him (he's definitely has more to him than the abridged version I once read shows). For one, he stands up to his evil uncle and renounces his aristocratic roots and the money, power, and prestige that would have come from keeping his position as the Marquis St. Evermonde. Now, I know that the revolution happened just a few years after his uncle's death, which meant he wouldn't have had any money or lands, but how was he to know that? You know a man's principles are good when he follows them even if it means loss to himself. Charles' refusal to profit off other people's misfortunes is one of the things that speaks to me the most about him. Also, when a letter comes to him from an old servant, he has little hesitation in going and saving a life it at all possible (did we ever actually learn what happened to Gabelle? In the 1935 movie, they show Mme. Defarge and her minions forcing Gabelle to write the letter that will bring Charles to Paris – and then they kill him. But I don't remember reading anything about his fate in the book), even if it means leaving his wife and daughter. Again, principles before personal comfort.

A Tale of Two Cities - Dr Manette and Lucie with Charles Darnay, by Charles Edmund Brock, c. before 1938

One thing I really love about Charles (probably due to my romantic nature) is that he asks Dr Manette's permission to marry Lucie. I love that. Lucie couldn't have asked for a better husband. Instead of going and declaring his love for Lucie right away, Charles 1) waited for quite some time even before telling Dr Manette of his feelings and 2) was extremely thoughtful towards Dr Manette's wishes on the matter. This scene is one of my favorites in the musical. You can listen to it here, although I highly recommend finding the scene in the musical and watching it as well. This scene (in both the book and the musical) also brings forth another reason I like Charles. He doesn't want to conceal his true name from Dr Manette, thinking that it's deceitful and would render him unworthy of Dr Manette and Lucie's trust, even though it could mean an end to the relationship. 

But Dr Manette himself refuses to hear the name until the morning of Lucie's wedding to Charles (should it come to pass). I think Dr Manette said that because he was afraid that if his suspicions about Charles' name proved true, he would forbid Lucie from seeing him just because of his unpleasant associations with the name of Evremonde. But he didn't want to mar Lucie's happiness (and Charles'), so he puts a condition that basically won't allow him to forbid Charles and Lucie's marriage (obviously). It really speaks about Charles' character that Dr Manette would trust him that much. And the last point I want to bring up in defence of Charles, is his forgiving nature. Sydney wasn't exactly polite to Charles early in the book, but when he asks forgiveness, Charles quickly and readily forgives him. And I'm sure he forgave Dr Manette for sending him back to the Bastille – because no matter how unwittingly it might have happened (Dr Manette couldn't have known what would happen when he wrote the letter in the first place) there was probably some bitterness or disappointment at first. And Charles is just an all-around amazing French/British gentleman and I like him a lot and this is my defence of him.

And now I want to do a short defence of Lucie Manette-Darnay (short, just because this post is getting ever-so-long). Lucie is one character change I love in the musical – she's more spirited and interesting, no matter how little stage time she may have. She has one solo (which is more than Charles can say, unfortunately); two, if you count both 'Without A Word' and 'Never Say Goodbye', even though she doesn't sing them both in the same production (she sang 'WaW' at the end of the concert, I believe, but not in the actual story itself). 'WaW' is actually pretty different than book Lucie, with quite a bit of anger and accusation in it. 'NSG' has the same, but more toned down. Two things really stick out to me about Lucie in the book. First of all, she follows Charles to France, no matter what the danger, and stands outside the prison all day (pretty much), every day, for about two years (I think it's two), in whatever weather. That speaks volumes about her loyalty to her husband, especially since he could only see her a few times for all the days she stood there. And something that some readers might have missed – she lost a child quite early in her marriage, but she still stayed sweet and kind and even happy through her faith in God. Now that is something worth mentioning.



Maddie Rose said...

Well, to answer your question, I believe Gabelle lives. He is released and is a witness at Charles Darnay/Evremonde's trial.

Secondly, I liked Charles too, really. I loved his asking permission and avowal of love as told to Dr. Manette. I also love his self-sacrifice in inheriting the estate. I sometimes wonder about his going off so soon to Paris to save Gabelle. Doesn't he hear how bad it is? Couldn't he send a messenger? I am sure Gabelle would be sad knowing he was the cause of Charles imprisonment.

I guess he didn't really have a good perspective and just left. It was noble, but rather dumb. :)

I see some of your points about Lucie and acknowledge them, but I still cannot like Lucie, I am afraid. I just couldn't relate to her. Her fainting and submissiveness and modesty and beauty! Is there a sentence where Dickens forgets to mention how BEAUTIFUL she is? I felt like I was being hit over the head with it everytime. I get it. She is beautiful. She is the perfect victorian woman... but sadly, because of that, she is a bore.

The only thing that she did that I really admire her for is her going to the jail so Charles can see her. She cannot see him, she does not even know if he is always there, but in case he is, to make him happy, there she is.
It showed she just MAY have a backbone somewhere.

The son was breifly mentioned, and theorefore sometimes forgotten. I know it must have been difficult, and I wish Dickens could have brought those things out more... but he didn't so I never really warmed towards her.

P.S. I have only read the book, I have never seen the movie. And I read the book recently, so my in depth studies on these things, and my opinions of people, are not fully cemented yet. Thought I'd put that in there, just to give perspective. I enjoyed your post, Eva!

Miss Dashwood said...

*thunderous applause*
I'm afraid I have very little to say on this post, m'dear, for you've said it all. Sydney may be more charismatic and even at times more lovable (definitely more pitiable) than Charles, but it's unfair to pass over Charles just for the sake of paying attention to Sydney. And Lucie is one of the best-rounded Blonde Soprano Heroines I've come across-- she develops so much in so little stage time. Love her. :D

Miss Jane Bennet said...


Gina said...

Nice job! I agree with you about Elizabeth Allan's Lucie -- she was quite the dim bulb, wasn't she? I didn't care for the writing or acting there. My favorite Lucie is Dorothy Tutin in the 1958 movie. She was very sweet and likable.

Lydia said...

I agree with you 100%. Charles is such a gentleman, how can you not love him? Love this post

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