A Tale of Two Cities, involves many complicated situations in which the characters must choose between chance or death, career or family, honor or revenge. As a result, ambiguity has evolved in multiple characters because of these difficult choices. Two prominently ambiguous characters are John Barsad and Monsieur Defarge. While Barsad recognizes the importance of career and honor, Defarge sees more prominence in family and revenge.
John Barsad’s ambiguity is demonstrated by two contrasting qualities: devotion to his job as a spy and neglect for his family. His devotion to his job as an English spy causes him to appear as a heroic figure. In order to protect his identity, for instance, he accepted Sydney Carton’s offer to help rescue Darnay. During the process of Carton’s changing into Darnay’s clothes, Barsad could have denounced Carton and Darnay for rebelling against authority, which would diminish all hope of ever returning Lucie Manette’s husband to her, but Barsad kept his word by risking his life to help Carton and Darnay. If he denounced Carton, Carton would denounce his identity as a spy, but if Barsad kept silent and helped Carton, Carton would in turn keep silent about Barsad’s identity. Although Barsad’s decision to keep silent involved the risk of being suspected as a French traitor, his decision indicates his devotion to his job; He would risk death rather than fail as a spy. Despite his inclination to his occupation, however, Barsad is portrayed as a “heartless scoundrel” (A Tale of Two Cities pg 100). He neglects his sister and “stripped her of everything she possessed” (pg 100), claiming that he is “busy” (pg 307) working as an “official” (pg 307). His devotion for his job over his family illustrates…
… take revenge. He understands Madame’s suffering, but also saw the innocence of the Manette family and how heartless it would be to ruin an entire family simply because two brothers from the previous generation murdered Madame’s family. Defarge’s dedication to his wife and empathy for the Manette family share a focus on the importance of family, a profound theme of A Tale of Two Cities that can relate to Dickens’s own life.
Barsad and Defarge have emphasized on the big theme of devotion and sacrifice. Barsad has devoted his life to career while Defarge devoted his life to family. Both characters find themselves questioning the importance of family: is family more important than career, honor, and revenge? Is loyalty to family just as necessary as to the nation?
Dickens, Charles. A Tale Of Two Cities. United States: Barnes and Noble Inc., 1993.