Now that the dust has settled and we can look upon the novel as a whole, it occurs to me that we’ve just had three weeks of ATOTC where Lucie barely figures – when she does, it is largely through the report of others, she has only two lines of dialogue in the last three instalments. This is quite troubling given that early on we were identifying her as the heroine of the piece given the consistency of her presence in most of the instalments.
The lack of her presence come the end of the story (or reduced presence perhaps, is fairer to say), does hint at greater concerns about the character,who is hugely significant to the plot, but doesn’t actively instigate much action herself. She does two great deeds – going to France to save her father, and then going to France again to save her husband (although, in the end, she doesn’t do that much to save him). The rest of the time her significance as a plot device is in inspiring action and emotion in others – her presence itself is the greatest factor in her father’s recovery she also is the subject of three proposals, and it is for her that Carton lays down his life – if he’d not met her, if Darnay had married someone else, then we’d be looking at a different fate for Charles I fancy. I’m not suggesting Lucie deliberately and maliciously kept in touch with Carton just so she could use him one day to save Darnay – that would be crazy – but her influence has a lot to answer for both as a positive and negative force.
We’ve talked about contrasting her with Madame Defarge, so consider the significance of this pairing. Madame actively goes out and facilitates change, consciously inspiring others to terrible deeds and deliberately setting out her machinations to entrap the Manettes and Darnay – Lucie, as the flipside to this, is arguably no less a dangerous character, albeit one who acts without awareness of the impact she is having on others around her. That her personality is benevolent does not detract from the chaos in her wake. I don’t think Dickens intended this, but just as Ben was talking about the subsequent use of Carton as an inspiration for men to seek noble deaths, so too in creating a character so lovely and loved, Dickens has created an unintentional monster of sorts, a nineteenth-century Helen of Troy.