I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out. . . .
I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. . . .
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.
Though much debate has arisen regarding the value and meaning of Sydney Carton’s sacrifice at the end of the novel, the surest key to interpretation rests in the thoughts contained in this passage, which the narrator attributes to Carton as he awaits his sacrificial death. This passage, which occurs in the final chapter, prophesies two resurrections: one personal, the other national. In a novel that seeks to examine the nature of revolution—the overturning of one way of life for another—the struggles of France and of Sydney Carton mirror each other. Here, Dickens articulates the outcome of those struggles: just as Paris will “ris[e] from [the] abyss” of the French Revolution’s chaotic and bloody violence, so too will Carton be reborn into glory after a virtually wasted life. In the prophecy that Paris will become “a beautiful city” and that Carton’s name will be “made illustrious,” the reader sees evidence of Dickens’s faith in the essential goodness of humankind. The very last thoughts attributed to Carton, in their poetic use of repetition, register this faith as a calm and soothing certainty.