Jerry Cruncher is a poor Englishman whose daytime occupation as a messenger for Tellson’s Bank and nighttime grave-robbing escapades entangle him in the lives of the Manettes and Charles Darnay. While he witnesses the family struggle to navigate the French Revolution’s dangers and is present when tragedy strikes, his individual character often acts as a source of comedic relief throughout the novel, albeit a dark one. Mr. Cruncher has a number of quirky characteristics that contrast with the other characters’ serious tones, including dark, spiky hair, a habit of talking to himself, a slang-based vocabulary, and his enthusiasm for grave robbing. Due to his post outside Tellson’s and his relationship with Mr. Lorry, Mr. Cruncher and all of his oddities end up appearing again and again at major events. He has a front row seat to Darnay’s trial in England, accompanies Mr. Lorry and the Manettes to Paris, and serves an integral role in developing the plan to free Darnay and escape France.
While Mr. Cruncher’s presence does provide some comedic relief, his character also has a dark side which becomes symbolically purified and redeemed by the novel’s end. Mr. Cruncher views his secret occupation as a “resurrection man,” or grave robber who sells dead bodies, as the work of an “honest tradesman” and fails to see the immorality in it. As a result of his disregard for the sacredness of the church and graveyard, he continuously berates and abuses his pious wife for “flopping,” or praying. This behavior, which starkly contrasts with the goodhearted nature of Darnay and Sydney Carton, begins to change when he journeys to Paris with the Manettes. After witnessing the horrific mass murders of the Revolution, Mr. Cruncher experiences a change of heart. He inadvertently reveals his identity as a “resurrection man” when confronting John Barsad about Roger Cly’s fake death, and in response to Mr. Lorry’s disapproval, vows to become a real grave digger to make amends. He also admits to Miss Pross in Part 3, Chapter 14 that his opinion of “flopping” has changed, an admission which represents his turn toward religion in the hopes of being saved both literally and spiritually. In the end, this transformation enables Mr. Cruncher himself to be metaphorically “recalled to life.”