A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 2, Chapter 12 : The Fellow of Delicacy | Summary

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Summary

On his way to the Manettes, where he intends to ask Lucie Manette to marry him, Mr. Stryver stops in at Tellson's Bank and announces his intentions to Mr. Jarvis Lorry. To his surprise, Lorry is doubtful Lucie would agree. Stryver is shocked: How could he, the most excellent Stryver, successful lawyer, be the wrong man for Lucie? Lorry tells him that if he is correct and Stryver states his interest, it would be embarrassing for him and for the Manettes. Lorry offers to go and speak with them himself to ascertain surreptitiously how they might feel about Stryver's proposal. Stryver agrees.

By the time Lorry returns, confirming that it's not a good idea for Stryver to court Lucie, Stryver has convinced himself the whole idea would not have been to his benefit: "I could have gained nothing by it. ... I am by no means certain ... that I ever should have committed myself to that extent."

Analysis

Mr. Stryver seems very confident at first that his success and status will gain him a wife immediately, but just as he accepts Sydney Carton's faults every day and seems to forget about them from one day to the next, he smooths out the criticism from Jarvis Lorry and makes it sound like it was his idea all along not to pursue Lucie Manette's hand in marriage. It is typical of a lawyer to take the evidence and twist it around to what he would like it to represent, and Stryver's personal life is no exception to that rule.

In the previous chapter, Sydney Carton joked to Stryver that he should cultivate some shame as a lawyer—another light moment in an otherwise dark novel. In this chapter, however, Lorry is very careful not to hurt Stryver's feelings, but stresses that his proposal could prove embarrassing for all involved. This stems from both his own careful, considerate nature and the nature of his relationship with Stryver: Unlike Carton, Lorry has a strictly professional relationship with Stryver, one he would not want to jeopardize. At the same time, he is such a considerate man that he would not want to hurt Stryver's feelings. He has saved the lawyer from embarrassment. He may not even have visited the Manettes, but, if he did, readers may be sure they never knew the true purpose of his visit.

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