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This is the final post in a two-part series comparing The Dark Knight Rises and A Tale of Two Cities. A film based on a comic book and a classic novel have a lot more in common than you might think! Read Part 1 here.
Revenge and Revolution
In ATTC, Madame Defarge and her husband use the rising revolution as a catalyst to bring about the downfall of Charles Darnay. Late in the novel, it is revealed that many years ago, Charles’ father, Evrémonde, raped Mme Defarge’s sister. Her father died of a heart attack soon after the incident, and her brother was mortally wounded in a duel with Evrémonde. As all the other Evrémondes are dead, Mme Defarge seeks revenge on Charles.
M. Defarge is instrumental in arresting Charles when he returns to France. He locates Dr. Manette’s unfortunate letter during the storming of the Bastille, and produces it as the key condemning piece of evidence at Charles’s second trial.
Bane and Talia are the Defarges of TDKR (though simultaneously I think Talia is a sort of twisted version of Lucie Manette, see “Recalled to Life” below). Like Mme Defarge’s sister, Talia’s mother was (assumedly) raped and killed. However, she seeks revenge upon Bruce for killing her father, Ra’s al Ghul. While Bane and Talia enclose Gotham in a virtual bubble and incite the people to rebel against the upper crust, all they really desire is for Bruce to be forced to watch his city tear itself apart, all the while knowing that it will be destroyed by a nuclear bomb in mere months.
These villains couldn’t care less about the people’s revolution. To them, it’s just a means to achieving revenge.
The Kangaroo Court
After languishing for a year in prison, the unfortunate Charles Darnay is put on trial for his life in a rowdy court of the “people.” A rousing defense by his father-in-law, Dr. Manette, allows him to be released…but he is re-arrested only hours later. The next day, he is sentenced to the guillotine.
“Death…or…exile?” the Scarecrow asks the Gothamites in the hot seat in his “sentencing” court where a bloodthirsty mob lines either side of the room. The outcome doesn’t matter; either way, the guilty parties are forced to walk across the thin ice surrounding Gotham until gravity gets the better of them.
“Recalled to Life”
Tying into the themes of sacrifice, both works contain a consistent theme of resurrection.
“I am the Resurrection and the Life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die,” Sydney repeats to himself in the time leading up to his death.
Jerry Cruncher also works as a “Resurrection Man,” digging up bodies to donate them to science. At one point, however, he discovers with dismay that the coffin of a spy contains no body, and that the man is still alive. This reminds me a little of the switcheroo in the beginning of TDKR, where Bane “kills” the unfortunate Dr. Pavel, leaving a different body to be found in the remains of a plane crash.
Both TDKR and ATTC compare being left in prison to being buried alive. Dr. Manette has pretty much forgotten his own identity by the time he emerges from the Bastille, where he spent eighteen years wrongly imprisoned. His daughter, Lucie, who greatly resembles her deceased mother, helps him recover. As mentioned before, his testimony accidentally condemns his own son-in-law to be similarly imprisoned. As scholars such as Alfred D. Hutter have noticed, this is part of a theme of two generations unintentionally yet inevitably opposing one another.
Bane and Talia both grow up in the darkness of a prison which is literally a huge, deep underground well. Bruce eventually discovers that Talia’s father is none other than Ra’s al Ghul, his former mentor and one-time father figure. A case can even be made that due to his set-up as the “heir” to the League of Shadows in the first film and his brief romantic connection to Talia in the third, Bruce is al Ghul’s honorary son-in-law. Like Charles, he ends up doing some time in prison, but Bruce manages to escape due to his own faith and agility.
In his life, Sydney was a lawyer given over to drinking and debauchery; however, he dies in place of Charles, the husband of the woman he loves, Lucie. Charles and Lucie’s grandson is also named Sydney. Like his namesake, he is a lawyer, albeit one so successful “that my [Sydney Carton’s] name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it, faded away.” Sydney Carton’s past sins are erased, while his legacy lives on in a future generation.
Batman’s reputation had been besmirched by the widespread belief that he had murdered several people, who in actuality had died at the hands of Harvey Dent. The Gothamites believed he died when he towed the bomb a safe distance away from the city, but Batman’s status as the savior of Gotham was restored. Like Sydney, he has a successor: Robin Blake, who seems to be in a position to pick up where Bruce Wayne left off.
These are the most prominent parallels I was able to find. If you caught other ones, drop me a note in the comments! Thank you for reading!