The final words of Sydney Carton, in Charles DickensÆ (1859 Bk. 3 Ch. 15) A Tale of Two Cities as he is about to be executed, are: ôIt is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.ö Like many other expressions in this novel pertaining to English and French history, these lines represent a paradox. From the opening line, ôIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times,ö paradox abounds in DickensÆ (1859, Bk. 1; Ch. 1) novel centered on the French Revolution. However, Sydney CartonÆs final words, like other paradoxes in A Tale of Two Cities are a logical paradox.
There are no clear cut scenarios in DickensÆ A Tale of Two Cities. The heroes are also the villains, whether it is Charles Darnay who is a good man but also represents the often evil others of his class or Sydney Carton, who Faulkner (2001 2) calls, ôàa drunk and a wastrel, but also gives his life for another.ö This is why Carton maintains moments before his death that it is a ôfar, far better thingö he does than he has ever before done (Dickens 1859 Bk. 3 Ch. 15).
The use of paradoxes is intentional, as Dickens is portraying two revolutions, one of politics and one of generations. At times, France is in conflict with itself, including its political and familial past and present. The logical paradoxes used by Dickens in the story add to this sociopolitical conflict and its numerous contradictions. As Felendler notes, Dickens portrays
a nation suddenly in conflict with its own past traditions, but also generations of individual families struggling to cope with and ultimately break away from the actions of those who preceded them (1).
We see that throughout the novel there are things that appear to be what they are not, from Madame DefargeÆs seemingly innocent knitting to the sacrifice of a wastrel drunk, Carton, and Englishman, for the French aristocra...