Corps et âme

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Frank Conroy

As far as plot development goes, Jerry Cruncher may not seem essential to the novel.  After all, he is a relatively minor character, and his function in the novel could easily have been accomplished by another character.  However, when one looks at the structure of the novel as a whole, beyond plot requirements, Cruncher becomes indispensable.  In many ways, A Tale of Two Cities is a dark, daunting, and humorless novel; Cruncher provides some levity.  However, Cruncher’s humor serves a purpose beyond light comedy.  His take on the world demonstrates how much personal perspective influences one’s perception of right and wrong.  Cruncher works for Tellson’s, which means that he has a legitimate job.  However, he is only a porter, which means that he is a member of the lower socioeconomic class, but his job gives him a unique insight into the lives of the wealthy.  His night job is robbing graves, which he tries to imbue with some semblance of decency, but he is unsuccessful in his efforts.  Cruncher is also an abusive husband, which sets him up as a perfect foil to Charles Darnay and even to Sydney Carton, due to their mutual adoration of Lucie.  However, Cruncher is given a chance at redemption, and he takes it; by the end of the novel, he stops robbing graves and accepts his wife’s religion.  Furthermore, because Cruncher is able to state that Roger Cly’s burial was a fake, he gets the information Carton needs to blackmail John Barsad, which ultimately leads to Carton being able to save Darnay’s life.

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