The Role Of Women In "A Tale Of Two Cities."

1046 words - 4 pages

Charles Dickens's novel "A Tale of Two Cities" is a story of intricately woven plot lines driven by intriguing characters. The female characters are often primary forces in driving the other players and advancing the plot. It's been said that Dickens uses the women in his story to somewhat questionable ends; some say that he merely uses their womanhood for symbolism and crudely limits their portrayal to the reader to their rather boring superlatives. However this is not the case, as the beauty of Dickens's female characters, especially one Lucie Manette, lies in their actions and dialogue, and these techniques are used to paint a more subtle picture of their personalities and roles in the story. The female characters (namely Lucie) in A Tale of Two Cities is more than just a crude symbol, and through her underlying qualities and irresistible embodiment of the 19th century ideal of the perfect woman, she exudes a power over the male characters like no one else in the story.

If there is one single female character that encapsulates all the qualities that make a woman influential in this story, it must be Lucie Manette. Intentionally so on Dickens's part Lucie is characterized as, from a 19th century perspective, the perfect woman. She's compassionate (O, so overwhelmingly compassionate!), she's beautiful, she's delicate, and she's loyal. These qualities allow her (as so eloquently stated by said male characters) to exercise an uncanny efficaciousness over the gender so hormonally inclined to bend to a damsel's whim.

Through her interactions with the other male (and female) characters we learn infinitely more about them than we ever could otherwise. A perfect example of this is when Mr. Stryver asks Lucie for her hand in marriage. Stryver had always carried himself with an air of arrogance and rigorous self-satisfaction. However, after he falls in love with and is subsequently (and ever so politely) refused by the Manette family (vicariously through Mr. Lorry), he is shown on the inside to have a very fragile ego, and says, injured, to hide his shame: "'I assure you,' returned Mr. Stryver, in the friendliest way, 'that I am sorry for it on your account, and sorry for it on the poor father's account. I know this must always be a sore subject with the family; let us say no more about it (135).'" Stryver may not let anyone see it, but his hauteur in regard to his rejection belies his bruised pride at being turned down by the one he loves. Dickens needed to use Lucie and her magnetism to bring out this aspect of Stryver and prove just how powerful of a persona Lucie is.

Another male character that Lucie has an especially profound influence on is her father, Doctor Manette. When he is first encountered in the Defarges' wine shop, he is a dilapidated wreck of a man, both mentally and physically, looking disheveled and fixed on the delusion that he is a shoemaker. However upon meeting Lucie and being nursed back to stability by her and thus being...

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