Dr. Manette Character Analysis

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At the onset of A Tale of Two Cities, the backstories of key characters are quite vague, but as the novel progresses, eventually fall into place. The background of Dr. Manette in particular has been especially convoluted, as major concepts are neglected and intentionally left out. In previous chapters, Dickens has mentioned Manette’s time in prison, but has not gone much further than this. However, in Chapter Nineteen, entitled “The Opinion,” Dickens gives readers a much clearer look into Dr. Manette’s unstable mental state through his extensive conversation with Jarvis Lorry. In addition, a greater understanding for Dr. Manette is developed as there is no longer quite as much mystery surrounding his past. It becomes obvious that scarring…show more content…
Manette has proven to be a capable and stable father, but when reminded of traumatic memories and situations, spirals into a mentally handicapped state. When it comes to discussing his past, especially his time in prison, Dr. Manette begins to act like a child, refusing to open up unless the situation is approached in a less direct manner. Lorry goes about this conversation by offering a more hypothetical situation. Perhaps this is more comforting to Manette, as he does not feel quite as connected to his past. However, it is very interesting to see this sense of immaturity come out of Dr. Manette, considering that he is typically “of a studious habit, and unusually energetic” (204). Even so, Dr. Manette is fully aware that he is an unstable man, and is forced to work excessively hard to maintain his sanity. Additionally, Manette’s relapses and reactions to certain memories are somewhat resemblant of post-traumatic stress disorder. He is jolted from his healthy mental state through flashbacks and vivid images. However, considering that he “[speaks] with the diffidence of a man who [knows] how a slight thing would overset the delicate organization of the mind,” Dr. Manette is clearly aware of his emotional triggers along with how to avoid them (205). Charles Dickens portrays Dr. Manette’s underlying psychological struggles within A Tale of Two Cities through his constant changes in personality and mental…show more content…
Manette finds himself in a vicious cycle of harmful actions. After experiencing the intensity of his long-term imprisonment, one of Manette’s worst habits is his inability to free his mind of intrusive and destructive thoughts. During his conversation with Jarvis Lorry, he describes how he believes his relapse occurred as the result of “a strong and extraordinary revival of the train of thought and remembrance that was the first cause of the malady” (204). Often times, people’s minds are their own worst enemies, as it is impossible to escape thoughts and feelings. This idea is especially applicable to Dr. Manette who continually lets his thoughts get the best of him, trapping him in a whirlwind of destruction. Bad habits are very difficult to end, and in the case of Dr. Manette, it is dramatically impacting “[his] feelings, [his]...mind,” preventing him from moving on and living a happy life (202). Not only is Dr. Manette familiar with negative and pessimistic thinking, repetitive actions as well. When he finds himself in a stressful and potentially traumatizing situation, Dr. Manette resorts to shoemaking, referring to the task as an “old companion” (207). Even though Manetter finds comfort in this “activity” as something to take his mind off of his problems, it becomes a sign of his mental instability and need for protection. Whether he realizes it or not, shoemaking is an unhealthy alternative to
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