A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 2, Chapter 4 : Congratulatory | Summary

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Summary

Charles Darnay has been acquitted of treason and is surrounded by Mr. Jarvis Lorry, Mr. Stryver, Lucie Manette, and Dr. Manette, who congratulate him. Darnay kisses Lucie's hand and takes Stryver's hand, as he owes him his life. Dr. Manette looks at Darnay as if he recognizes something in him, and Lorry suggests that the Manettes go home to rest.

Sydney Carton shows up to speak with Darnay, which annoys Lorry, who feels Carton has no place in the conversation. He isn't aware of the part Carton played in Darnay's acquittal. Carton is also a little drunk and is not wearing his barrister's robes, which doesn't give a good impression. Lorry goes off to Tellson's Bank, and Carton ends up having dinner with Darnay. He mentions Lucie and seems to have decided he doesn't really like Darnay. He tells Darnay he's a "disappointed drudge" and has no one in his life. Darnay makes an effort to part on good terms despite Carton's efforts to get him to express dislike. When Darnay leaves, Carton reveals he hates Darnay because, although he looks almost exactly like Carton, he has succeeded in life and attracted Lucie's attention, thus embodying everything Carton has lost by drinking too much and staying alone.

Analysis

Charles Darnay becomes enamored of Lucie Manette, and who wouldn't? She's beautiful, composed, and gentle, and showed in the courtroom that it pained her to harm Darnay. Dr. Manette, however, has an interesting and disturbing reaction to Darnay. What does he see in Darnay's face that makes him suddenly turn distrustful and full of fear? Could it be that Darnay reminds him of people who were determined to hurt him in France? Darnay is portrayed as an aristocrat from France who has business there, and it is possible that Dr. Manette recognizes him. If so, it is natural that he not only becomes distrustful, but that he was unable to remember anything Darnay said when he testified against him in court. This imbalance of feelings, both admiring and fearful, will periodically come back to Dr. Manette.

Sydney Carton's interaction with Darnay is also telling. Carton is unhappy with the way his life has turned out, but he only has himself to blame. He appears to want someone like Lucie to care for him, although he says to Darnay he has never cared for anyone and no one cares for him. But he knows his lifestyle—staying alone, living in a tiny room, and drinking himself to sleep every night—has ruined every opportunity for a better life, and he has no ambition to move up in his career. Still, looking at Darnay is like looking in a mirror and seeing what he could have been. Carton's envy is inevitable, but the reader also gets the sense he admires Darnay, especially because it's clear that Lucie admires him, too.

Readers may wonder what is happening when Mr. Jarvis Lorry suddenly calls out, "Chair there!" after bidding Darnay "good night" in the middle of the chapter. The next line gives a clue: "Lorry bustled into the chair, and was carried off to Tellson's." A sedan chair had been an important mode of transport in England since Elizabethan times. It was a lightweight chair with a strong frame suspended on two long poles. Depending on the size and weight of the chair, it might be carried by as many as four men, but was usually carried by two. Many of the London "chairmen" were Irish immigrants. By the end of the 18th century, the sedan chair was falling out of use in London, as hackney coaches became the transport of choice.

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