I have never been a fan of Darnay. There is someting about him I dislike. He is an empty character who thinks he is an idealist walking away from a title and estates in France to set himself as an independent man with a semi-suburban life in London. The reason he gives for renouncing his title is that he is “bound to a system that is frightful to me, responsible for it, but powerless in it: seeking to execute the last request of my dear mother’s lips, and obey the last look of my dear mother’s eyes which implored me to have mercy and to redress; and tortured by seeking assistance and power in vain.”
Eight hours after this great speech, with the death of his uncle he has the power to assist his own local peasants at least. Instead of staying and using what power his estates may bring to give him the chance to ‘execute and obey’ his dear mother’s last wishes what does he do? He scarpers off, leaves the ball in the court of a man much less powerful than him and re-enacts Pontius Pilate.
Come the revolution when Tellsons becomes the MI6 of Georgian London (I enjoy the thought of Jarvis as M or Smiley), he must have known the danger Gabelle was in but does nothing to help. I really do agree with Stryver; “… he’ll always show ’em a clean pair of heels very early in the scuffle, and sneak away.”
With the advent of the letter from Gabelle and the comments he has heard about Evremonde from the emigres in the bank it dawns on him that “…he had acted imperfectly.” He persuades himself he has done nothing wrong, that he can ride into Paris on a white horse and explain everything , rescue Gabelle and even change the course of affairs in France.
Never once does he stop to to wonder why Gabelle should send a letter, why the Parisian authorities would allow Gabelle to send a letter, to an emigrant at Tellson’s Bank of all places. How would Gabelle know that an Evremonde had an account there or that Tellsons would know how to contact him?
Fully in charge of his white horse he involves Jarvis Lorry to carry a message saying he will be in Paris in twenty four hours as if Mr Lorry hasn’t enough problems with his own mission without risking himself to revolutionary scutiny by visiting a prisoner in L’Abbaye.
Dickens explanation that he was drown to the Lodestone Rock suggests that like Ajip in the Arabian Nights he would be marooned when the rock pulled the nails out of his ship.
I’m not sure that the Lodestone Rock is the best metaphor for Darnay’s journey, Ajip got there by accident. To me he seems to be like Odysseus insisting on hearing the sirens sing whilst everyone else was struggling hard to get away from them.
I am not really keen on Darnay, however thanks to the Victorian Web we have this neat illustration of the confrontation betwen him and Stryver.