When talking about renowned stories and strong characters in literature, there are two names that come up every time, A Tale of Two Cities and Beowulf. Both of these stories can be compared in many ways and in many ways they are extremely different with few similarities. These stories were written centuries apart yet they are both still notorious today. The diverse styles of writing in each of these tales show the different time periods. There are three similarities that I want to specifically discuss more about: the protagonists’ characteristics, how they change, and how they end their lives with meaning.
One of the differences between the two books is that the protagonists, Beowulf and Sydney Carton, are more comparable than most people would think. In Beowulf the main character is obviously Beowulf and he is a strong and resilient character that fights to help those who need it. In Beowulf it says he was, “greater and stronger than anyone anywhere in this world….” (lines 109-111). Beowulf has to kill Grendel to save the people of Denmark and lose many of his own men along the way.
He does eventually kill Grendel and then Grendel’s Mother to save the people. “But Beowulf longed only for fame, leaped back into battle” (lines 502-504) this shows Beowulf’s heart to finish what he started. He never gave up no matter how difficult it was to continue after his men were killed or no matter how hard it was to fight the monsters. Sydney Carton on the other hand first appears as a lazy, alcoholic attorney who cannot muster even the smallest amount of interest in his own life. He describes his existence as a supreme waste of life and takes every opportunity to declare that he cares for nothing and no one. Carton by the end of story changes immensely and becomes a better man. Now Carton isn’t strong resilient like Beowulf but he is courageous and he gives up his own life to save his friend’s life, Charles Darney. Darney is married to lucie, who Carton loves, but Carton still saves him from the guillotine because he wants to give his life some meaning. Another difference is that both main characters change so much by the end of
When Beowulf is called on by King Hrothgar of Denmark to come save him and his people from Grendel he goes right away and shows his strength by defeating Grendel so the people of Denmark would not be bothered by him anymore. This is how Beowulf wounded Grendel, “He twisted in pain, and the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder, snapped, muscle and bone split and broke. The battle was over, Beowulf had been granted new glory” (lines 389-393). Beowulf dies in the story so he changes a lot, but his story lived on, as he became a legend. As stated before Sydney Carton remarkably changes from this man who has no meaning in life to someone who is respected and finds fulfillment in existence. Carton changes from the moment he meets Lucie Manette, a French woman who grew up in England.
Before Carton changed he was described as a “Jackal” throughout the story. “ ‘Sydney,’ said Stryver, on that self-same night, or morning, to his jackal; ‘mix another bowl of punch; I have something to say to you’”(page 143). The third similarity between these stories is that they both end with these protagonists ending their lives with meaning. In Beowulf, after his tough fighting, he defeats the monsters in Denmark and saves the people, he eventually becomes the king of his home country, Geatland, when the king dies. By the end of A Tale of Two Cities Sydney Carton has changed enormously and ends his life with meaning. Carton takes Darney’s place at the guillotine and is killed for a crime he never committed, not exactly fair or just but that is how he wanted it. “Quickly, but with hands as true to the purpose as his heart was, Carton dressed himself in the clothes the prisoner had laid aside, combed back his hair, and tied it with a ribbon the prisoner had worn”(page 372).
After this he died at the guillotine knowing he had meaning in his life. In both of these fascinating stories we see how they similar they actually are. Beowulf acted on his feelings and was respected for it and Carton was someone who was looked down upon but changes his ways. These books are both well known throughout all of literature but for different reasons. Beowulf is well known for its language and diction and A Tale of Two Cities is known for its meticulous plot and scrupulous thought. As long as these stories are compared and talked about, these two tales will always be thought of as two of the best.