A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens
Summary

Book the Second: The Golden Thread Chapters 10–13

Summary Book the Second: The Golden Thread Chapters 10–13

Carton’s words, on the other hand, betray a deep psychological and emotional struggle, suggesting the existence of feelings more complex, perhaps even more worthy of reciprocation, than Darnay’s:

In my degradation I have not been so degraded but that the sight of you with your father, and of this home made such a home by you, has stirred old shadows that I thought had died out of me. . . . I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight.

In his depiction of his love, Carton opens himself to the reader’s sympathy in a way that Darnay does not. Whereas Darnay makes an objective, almost factual statement of his love for Lucie, Carton describes his emotions, tinged as they are by realistic insecurity (“my degradation”) and uncertainty (“unformed ideas”). He also speaks poetically of “old shadows” and “the abandoned fight”; his use of metaphor seems to reflect his inability to grasp fully his profound feelings. Darnay, in contrast, categorizes his experience simply as “love,” not pausing to ponder the emotions behind the word.

Lucie’s conjecture on whether she can “recall [Carton] . . . to a better course” echoes the beginning of the novel, when Lorry recalls Doctor Manette to life. Manette had to suffer a death of sorts—wasting nearly twenty years in prison—before being reborn into the life of love and devotion with Lucie. Now, Carton, too, shall have to undergo a sort of death or sacrifice in order to win the fight for love and meaning that he claims to have abandoned.

Dickens’s characteristic humor, largely absent from A Tale of Two Cities, shines through in his depiction of Stryver in Chapter 12. Dickens uses Stryver’s name to suggest the essential nature of his character. Coldly ambitious, the man ruthlessly strives to distinguish himself as a great businessman and here, in Chapter 12, endeavors to win the hand of Lucie Manette. Dickens ironically entitles the chapter “The Fellow of Delicacy,” bringing Stryver’s coarseness into greater relief. In Stryver’s surly refusal to heed Lorry’s gentle advice and postpone his courtship of Lucie, we see clearly one of Dickens’s greatest talents—the ability to capture a character through dialogue.

“Were you going [to Lucie’s] now?” asked Mr. Lorry.
“Straight!” said Stryver, with a plump of his fist on the desk.
“Then I think I wouldn’t, if I was you.”
“Why?” said Stryver. “Now, I’ll put you in a corner,” forensically shaking a forefinger at him. “You are a man of business and bound to have a reason. State your reason. Why wouldn’t you go?”

The directness of Stryver’s response to Lorry (“Straight!”) and the emphatic nature of his accompanying thump on the table demonstrate his blind and unshakeable ambition. His finger-wagging and blustery imperative demanding to hear Lorry’s “reason” reveal his aggressive nature and refusal to be hindered in his pursuits. In his interrogating and intimidating mannerisms, Stryver acts as if he were arguing a legal point or cross-examining a witness. It is clear to the reader that he approaches the courtship as he would a case in court—as a way to gain money and stature—and not out of fondness for Lucie.