Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay. The drunken cynic and the gentlemanly aristocrat. These two are compared and contrasted no end; people are on Team Sydney or Team Charles, and they’re going to stick to it! We Tale fans sob over Sydney’s unrequited love and sigh over Charles’ amazing manners and courage. But very few people think about the relationship between Charles and Sydney—and it’s not something to be missed, as I discovered once I began to consider it.
One thing that struck me right away was how much Sydney was like Grantaire. (Did the words “drunken cynic” ring a bell?) It took me a little longer to realize that Sydney and Charles had a dynamic not unlike Enjolras and Grantaire’s. Obviously, Charles isn’t much like Enjo. For one thing, he’s against the revolution, for another, he’s married, and…but I am *not* going to start talking about that. If I do, before you know it this entire post will just turn into gushing over Enjolras’ many qualities, and this just isn’t the time. Sadly. :P
Anyways. The main reason for this comparison is that Sydney, throughout the book, sees Charles as the man he perhaps could have become; his mirror image, if you will. And Enjolras is pretty much Grantaire’s opposite. The difference here is how the Enjolrai treat the R’s.
Charles kind of despises Sydney, but being the perfect gentleman he is (*gushy sigh*), he doesn’t show it, though he does complain to his wife about Sydney’s behavior—and is told off for it, to my great delight. :P Sydney admires Charles, but doesn’t show it, instead insulting him at a bar. However, when Lucie chooses Charles, Sydney attempts to gain Charles’ friendship for Lucie’s sake. (One could argue here that Sydney was friendly to Charles to be able to see Lucie more, but remember that he only visited them a few times a year, so I don’t think he was simply taking advantage of the Darnays.)
Throughout the book (and musical), Sydney often regrets that he didn’t have anything substantial to offer Lucie, but as far as I know, he never blames Darnay or Lucie, which is a point for him—but this isn’t a Defending Sydney post, either. My, this is just going on and on, isn’t it…Anyways. I think that this is because Sydney respects Darnay, as well as loving Lucie. Charles has earned himself a place in Sydney’s heart. I think this is at least partly because the man treates him courteously, and I doubt Sydney has received much courtesy in his life.
Now we get to the climactic final act. Charles is arrested, Sydney wanders the streets at night wondering what to do (and I believe that he comes to know God sometime around that time, as well), and then goes to Charles’ prison to change places and sacrifice himself. Usually, the motivation for this act is attributed to his love for Lucie—but remember this Bible verse? “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” (Romans 5:7)
This is taken a bit out of context, but it’s still true. Sydney died for Lucie and Little Lucie’s happiness, but I believe he also died for Charles—for one of the only men to gain his true respect and friendship. For a good man. Charles had just as much to do with Sydney’s transformation and subsequent sacrifice as Lucie did, in my humble opinion; if Charles hadn’t taken the time to be hospitable and polite and compassionate—even if it was just to oblige his wife—, Sydney would probably have ended up on the streets, worse off than before.
So that’s my take on the relationship between Charles and Sydney. They saw each other three or four times a year, were rivals for the same woman’s affections, came from nearly opposite conditions in society—and yet, they had huge impacts on each other’s lives. It’s amazing what love can do, don’t you think?