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A Tale of Two Cities | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In Book 2, Chapter 5 of A Tale of Two Cities, why is Sydney Carton referred to as a "jackal" to Mr. Stryver's "lion"?

Sydney Carton is referred to as "idlest and most unpromising of men" but he is also called "Stryver's greatest ally." Carton is not interested in being a successful barrister himself, but he is devoted to helping Mr. Stryver win his cases. As an example, he is the person who tossed Mr. Stryver a note in the Old Bailey, telling him to point out that Carton and Charles Darnay looked almost exactly alike, so John Barsad was lying that he could be absolutely certain Darnay was the right man. Darnay did not, in fact, have a face like no other man. Mr. Stryver, as the "lion," is the person who finds cases and takes down his opponents, but Carton is the one who does the grunt work and provides the details that allow Stryver to do such a thorough job. Carton sacrifices the glory of the hunt for the easy acquisition of the benefits, giving all the glory to Stryver. In addition, as the "lion," Stryver is the one who acquires provisions, notably alcohol, which Carton, the "jackal," is happy to finish off. Much of their working relationship involves drinking together until all hours of the night, which doesn't seem to stop Stryver from being as successful as he is, but stops Carton from having any ambition to improve his lot in life. Stryver needs Carton to keep him going and clean up after him, but Carton also needs Stryver to support his drinking habit and give his live meaning.

In Book 2, Chapter 5 of A Tale of Two Cities, why does Sydney Carton deny that Lucie Manette is pretty?

Sydney Carton and Mr. Stryver are talking about Carton's failures in school when they were fellow students, and Carton asks to change the subject because it is depressing. Stryver lifts his glass in a toast to "the pretty witness" in order to change the subject, and Carton argues with him as to whether Lucie Manette is pretty or not. Carton insists that she isn't, calling her a "golden-haired doll." Stryver accuses Carton of lying; he says that he noticed at the trial that Carton "sympathised with the golden-haired doll, and [was] quick to see what happened to the gold-haired doll." Carton still insists that Lucie isn't pretty, and with that, decides he is going home. But even the sunrise is sad, says the narrator, because it rises on a very sad Sydney Carton. Carton is not willing to admit to anyone that he wants Lucie to love him. He can't even admit that she is pretty because it is too painful for him to contemplate his failures in life and how they contribute to Lucie's being out of his reach.

In Book 2, Chapter 6 of A Tale of Two Cities, how do Miss Pross and Mr. Jarvis Lorry disagree regarding Dr. Manette's silence on the matter of his persecutors?

Mr. Jarvis Lorry feels it is unhealthy for Dr. Manette to suppress his trauma. He thinks it would be better for the doctor if he shared it with someone. That someone shouldn't be himself (Lorry), although they have known each other so long and are now close friends. The ideal person would be Lucie Manette. But Miss Pross explains to him that Dr. Manette is too fragile. She believes the doctor may slip back into insanity if he talks about his prison stay, about the shoemaking, or about the person who put him in prison. She tells Mr. Lorry that Dr. Manette "is afraid of the whole subject," and if the doctor doesn't know how he managed to become well again, he may not know how to come back to sanity next time. Miss Pross feels that it is safer for Dr. Manette if Lucie simply stands near him or walks with him until he stops feeling lost, rather than forcing him to talk about it. She says, "Touch that string, and he instantly changes for the worse." By "that string," she means the story of his time in prison and what led up to it. Her way of dealing with the doctor's past is to "leave it alone, whether like or don't like," so as to keep him safe from his memories of France.

In Book 2, Chapter 6 of A Tale of Two Cities, how does Dickens use weather to foreshadow events in France in later chapters of the novel?

Dickens uses a thunderstorm to foreshadow the crowds that will bear down on Charles Darnay as he tries to get to Paris, as well as the crowds that will gather around the guillotine to watch the executions of prisoners. Lucie Manette remarks that hearing echoes of the rain and of the people rushing to avoid it outside make her imagine all of the footsteps of people that will come through her life and her father's life. However, Sydney Carton astutely says that "a great crowd is bearing down" on all of them, just as the rain comes down in a torrent, the lightning strikes, and the thunder booms. Because Carton expects the worst in his life all of the time, he says he accepts this crowd, no questions asked. He will do the same later in the novel when he takes Darnay's place at the guillotine. In England, they are safe, though, because the footsteps are just the rain and the passersby running for shelter from it.

In Book 2, Chapter 7 of A Tale of Two Cities, what do the Marquis's actions in his carriage indicate about his opinion of the common people?

When the Marquis is in his carriage, his driver recklessly speeds down the road without concern for the people on the street. The fact that the Marquis never tells his driver to slow down shows that he doesn't care about the lives of commoners. He enjoys seeing "the common people dispersed before his horses, and often barely escaping from being run down." When his driver hits and kills a child, it is clear that the Marquis's reputation for violence is well known because the people just stand there, quiet and afraid, waiting for him to react. The Marquis sees the wailing of the child's father as disturbing noise, and is more worried about his horses being hurt than about the fact that he just killed a child. He throws a coin at the father as if to pay for the child, as if a person were an object that can be bought and sold, and easily replaced. In the Marquis's mind, and under the feudal system still in effect in France at that time, peasants are the property of their liege lords, to be whipped into shape and used and disposed of according to whim. When someone throws a coin he has tossed back into his carriage, the Marquis sums up his view of the poor commoners: "I would ride over any of you very willingly and exterminate you from the earth."

In Book 2, Chapter 9 of A Tale of Two Cities, how does the Marquis's reaction to Charles Darnay's giving up his inheritance further reveal the Marquis's personality?

When Charles Darnay visits his uncle, the Marquis, he tells him that he is giving up his inheritance and the title Marquis. Darnay says that he is going to live in England permanently because he can't abide the cruelty and violence for which his family is famous among the peasants. Darnay wants nothing to do with his inheritance because it comes from such a ruthlessly horrible family. The Marquis doesn't really take Darnay seriously, as if being kind to peasants broke some kind of social rule. He actually tells Darnay that he hopes people detest their family: "Detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low." The Marquis believes that peasants should be whipped and treated like hated dogs, in order to keep them from rising up and demanding anything. The Marquis laughs at Darnay's plan to leave his inheritance behind, because Darnay will have to live without money. Darnay replies that he will make enough to live on as a tutor. As Darnay is being led to his room that night, the Marquis hopes that Darnay will be burned in his bed. All of these comments by the Marquis show that he not only views peasants as scum, but also has no attachment to family. The Marquis is a man full of hate for everyone but himself.

In Book 2, Chapter 9 of A Tale of Two Cities, what is indicated by the note from the Marquis's murderer?

The person who murders the Marquis leaves a note signed "from Jacques." This indicates that he is part of the group of revolutionaries who will end up storming the Bastille and sending thousands of people to the guillotine. The murderer is a man, because the name Jacques is only used by male revolutionaries in order to make sure that they can identify each other without giving away their real names. The murderer wants anyone who finds the Marquis to know that part of the reason for killing him was his terrible treatment of the peasants living on his land. The words "Drive him fast to his tomb" speak to the crime the Marquis committed by allowing his driver to speed so recklessly through the crowded Paris streets that he ran over and killed a child. Thus, the note indicates that the Marquis's murder is partly due to the conflict between socioeconomic groups, but is also an act of revenge for the killing of a child.

In Book 2, Chapter 10 of A Tale of Two Cities, why is Dr. Manette uncomfortable about talking with Charles Darnay about his love for Lucie Manette?

Charles Darnay wants to talk with Dr. Manette about how much he loves Lucie Manette and to ask for her hand in marriage. At the beginning of the conversation, it looks as if the doctor is not going to say yes; he seems deeply uncomfortable and won't look Darnay in the eye. When Darnay mentions that Dr. Manette has known love before, at least one of the reasons for his discomfort becomes clear: He cries out as if he is in pain and begs Darnay not to talk about his past love. When Dr. Manette was imprisoned, he was young, married, and about to become a father. It is too painful for him to contemplate the idea of marriage for Lucie because it reminds him of the love that he lost. But Dr. Manette knows that Darnay is sincere, and he doesn't want his past to deprive her of true love. Still, all through the conversation, his eyes show how he is really feeling. His words are positive, but his facial expression is one of "a struggle with that occasional look which had a tendency in it to dark doubt and dread." Then, Dr. Manette says that if anything comes out that turns him against Darnay that isn't Darnay's fault, for Lucie's sake, he would forgive it. He says she is "more to me than suffering, more to me than wrong." When Dr. Manette recoils at the idea of hearing who Darnay really is, readers suspect there is a more important reason for his acting strangely about the proposal. It appears that Dr. Manette already suspects who Darnay is, and his identity is a painful topic for the doctor.

In Book 2, Chapter 13 of A Tale of Two Cities, how have frequent visits with Lucie Manette changed Sydney Carton?

Sydney Carton reveals to Lucie Manette that although his life has been wasted on drink and laziness, and although he knows she can't love him because he would bring her down with him, she has changed something in him that he did not think could be changed. Carton has had glimpses of what he could possibly be and what he could do with his life to improve it. While he sees this vision as "a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down," he says, "I wish you to know that you inspired it." Lucie wants to try to change him, even if she can only be his friend, but Carton says it's too late for him to be anything but what he is. He does, however, want her to know that he is a man who would "give his life, to keep a life you love beside you." Carton has spent his career building up that of someone else, and now he will spend what is left of his life building up and keeping safe Lucie's family, including Charles Darnay. This, alone, is a change, because it is done out of love. Carton has never been able to care for anyone, but now he cares for Lucie.

In A Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, Chapter 14, what clues does Dickens give the reader that Jerry Cruncher is a body snatcher?

The first clue that Dickens drops is the excitement that funerals create for Jerry Cruncher. It seems that he's not the only one, though, who gets excited at the idea of burying a spy, as there is a crowd that gathers around the hearse and follows it. The crowd then causes trouble with passersby, accusing them of being spies, breaking things, and shouting. The crowd eventually disperses, but Jerry stays to "confer and condole with the undertakers." This is a second clue Dickens uses to let the reader know that Jerry is scoping out the location of the grave and finding out how old the dead man is. This detail is important because the body will be used for medical purposes. Jerry tells himself, "he was a young'un and a straight made 'un," referring to Roger Cly, the supposedly dead man. The third clue that Dickens drops is Jerry's visit to his "medical advisor—a distinguished surgeon." Jerry Cruncher is poor, so he can't afford medical care from an eminent surgeon. The astute reader can see that Jerry is making arrangements to deliver a body to the doctor.

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