Do you ever wish someone loved you enough to die for you?
Not that you’d actually want them to die, of course. But you’d just like to know that someone cared enough about you that they would give up their life to keep you safe and well.
I was thinking about that last week while reading A Tale of Two Cities. I’d planned on reading two of Charles Dickens’s books that I’d never read before for my Classics Club list, but ended up swapping out Bleak House for re-reading A Tale of Two Cities. I liked it so well when I read it 12 or 13 years ago in high school that I wanted to see if it still captured my interested.
I think it’s safe to say this book is just as powerful now as it was back then, considering the last few chapters left me in tears. I love books that are so real, so well written that they can make me cry and let me tell you there were plenty of that by the last sentence.
“It 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.” — Sydney Carton, A Tale of Two Cities
“Are you dying for him?”
If you’re not familiar with A Tale of Two Cities, here’s what you need to know for this post (warning: spoilers ahead). Charles Darney is a French aristocrat who left his family and their problematic legacy behind him when he moved to England. Sydney Carton met him when Charles was on trial in England as a suspected spy, and their physical resemblance was instrumental in getting Darney acquitted. This is also when Sydney met Lucy Manette, the daughter of a French doctor who’d been falsely imprisoned in France and was only recently rescued and brought back to England.
Sydney falls in love with Lucy, but he’s well aware that he has nothing to offer her and is not the sort of man she should marry. He tells her of his love, as well as the fact that he’s not a good enough man to reform himself even for her sake. He asks only that she would consider him a friend and tells her that he would give his life to save a life that she loved.
Charles and Lucy marry, years pass, and the French Revolution ignites. Drawn back to his homeland, Charles is revealed as Charles Evremonde and sentenced to death for the crimes of his aristocratic family, which includes the imprisonment of Doctor Manette. Fulfilling his promise to Lucy that he would die to save someone she loves, Sydney sneaks into the prison and changes places with Charles just a few hours before his scheduled execution. The only person to recognize the switch is a fellow prisoner, a young lady who asks if she can hold the brave stranger’s hand as they travel to their deaths.
“Some would even dare to die”
When you approach things with a Christian perspective, it’s only natural that when a fictional character dies in another person’s place your thoughts sooner or later turn to Jesus Christ. Jesus is proof that each of us really does have someone who loves us enough that they would die for us.
In the case of a Christian’s relationship with our Savior, He took our own death penalty on Himself. When I think about this great sacrifice in relation to the fictional sacrifice Sydney makes, this passage comes to mind:
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6-8, KJV)
As Christ-figures in literature go, Sydney Carton is a rather problematic one. By his own admission, he has done nothing good with his life thus far and has no intention of reforming. There is one person he loves, though, and when he has the power to make her happy by saving her husband he sacrifices himself. In fact, without Sydney’s efforts to plan the entire escape, it’s very probably that Lucy, her daughter, and maybe even her father would have been denounced and executed before they could have made it out of Paris following Charles’ death. Sydney is among the “some” who would “even dare to die” for a good man (or woman).
If you haven’t read A Tale of Two Cities yet I highly recommend it. Dickens’ writing style isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (his symbolism is a bit too heavy-handed even for me at times), but the story in this novel is wonderful. You can click here to order yourself a copy of A Tale of Two Cities. Please note that this is an affiliate link, which means I’ll receive a small commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.