A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

Protagonist

Main ideas Protagonist

Charles Darnay is the protagonist of the novel. He incites several of the major plotlines after his first trial where he is accused of treason against England. His trial brings him into contact with Lucie, Dr. Manette, and Sydney Carton, triggering all of the further plot action to come. More importantly, Darney incites major conflict through his decision to return to Paris to help Gabelle; this decision leads to danger for Lucie, little Lucie, and Dr. Manette. Darnay’s return to Paris also influences Carton’s decision to sacrifice himself. Darnay informs the actions of other characters because he acts nobly, but somewhat shortsightedly. His major goal is to distance himself from his hereditary association with the French nobility: as he explains at his trial in Paris, “he had voluntarily relinquished a title that was distasteful to him … to live by his own industry in England, rather than on the overladen industry of the people of France.” However, Darnay’s hope of accomplishing this goal is obstructed by Madame Defarge’s insatiable desire for revenge. Darnay is relatively unchanged over the course of the novel, since he remains an earnest and well-meaning character throughout.