Conflict of interests and clash of characters are to be found throughout the
narrative. The conflict between the upper and lower classes results in
revolution. At this level, the mob's clashes with their enemies often
conflict with their own goals and interests. Inner conflict also presents
itself. Dr. Manette struggles with two sides of his personality - - the
one that has suffered and seeks retribution and the other that has been
resurrected by the love and devotion of his daughter. Sydney Carton faces
a deep inner conflict, but emerges as Darnay's redeemer. Momentarily,
Monsieur Defarge, too, faces a conflict between loyalty to Dr. Manette
and his new found patriotism.
Charles Darnay (born Evremonde) is the protagonist of the novel. His
connection with the aristocracy makes him the key figure of both levels
of the narrative; one level deals with his private life and the other
deals with the revolution. He falls in love and marries the beautiful
and noble Miss Lucie Manette. Because of his noble birth, he unwittingly
jeopardizes the lives of all that are near and dear to him.
Darnay's antagonist is the revolution; although he takes no part in it,
he incurs the wrath of his adversaries because of his noble birth. Amongst
the revolutionaries, his main antagonist is Madame Defarge, who is a symbol
of the cruelty and violence. She leaves no stone unturned to take revenge
on the entire Evremonde family, including Lucie and her little daughter.
Although there are many minor climaxes that occur throughout the plot,
leading up to the final resolution of the conflict, the real turning point
in the novel is the death of Madame Defarge. Darnay has escaped execution,
through the sacrifice of Carton, and he and his family have managed to
leave Paris, both of which are significant climaxes. Neither event, however,
ensures the peace of the Darnay family. As long as Madame Defarge is alive,
she will use every means possible to seek revenge on the last of the Evremonde
clan, especially since Darnay has managed to escape execution. It is only
with her death, that Darnay fully overcomes his antagonist. As a result,
Lucie and Dr. Manette will also be able to live peacefully.
The story ends in comedy for Darnay, because he and his family can return to England and live in peace. The peace, however, is bought at a high price, with many lives sacrificed along the way. The novel is, therefore, a tragic comedy.
The outcome of the revolution is also tragic, for nothing really changes.
The poor remain miserable and hungry, even though they become the oppressors.
Dickens also depicts Dr. Manette as another key figure in the
two strands of the narrative. The father of Lucie, he is also the victim
of the aristocrats, just as his son-in-law is the victim of the revolutionaries.
He plays a major role in the latter section of the novel when he attempts
to rescue Darnay from being executed. Ironically, the Doctor's antagonists
are the Evremonde brothers, father and uncle of Charles Darnay.