With the proposals of marriage for Miss Lucie Manette, Charles Dickens sketches three differing kinds of love in a humorous sketch of C.J. Stryver's selfish desire as one who "shoulders his way" through life, expecting to shoulder his way selfishly into Lucie Manette's life, a poignant portrayal of Sydney Carton's idealized love, and the portrait of truly human love in Charles Darnay.
In an ironically entitled chapter, "The Fellow of Delicacy," Dickens portrays a man who is obtuse, interpreting reality to suit his plans. When Mr. Lorry essays to discreetly suggest that he not propose to Lucie Manette, Stryver sucks the end of a ruler, then strikes "a tune of his teenth with it" and says to Mr. Lorry,
"You deliberately advise me not to go up to Shoho and offer myself--myself, Stryver of the King's Bench bar?"
When Mr. Lorry tells him he has repeated his advice correctly, Stryver laughs. After some thought, Stryver acts as though he is "not so hot upon it" anymore and has decided not to ask Lucie himself. He
burst out of the Bank, causing such a concussion of air on his passage through, that to stand up against it bowing behind the two counters, required the utmost remaining strength of the two ancient clerks.
The fellow of true delicacy, of course, is Sydney Carton who in the equally ironically name chapter "'The Fellow of No Delicacy," wanders the streets of Soho until
From being irresolute and purposeless his feet became animated by an intention
and he calls upon Lucie Manette, telling her he "breaks down before the knowledge of what I want to say to you." He tells her she is the "last dream of my soul:
I have had unformed ideas of striving afresh, beginning anew, shaking off sloth and sensuality, and fighting out the abandoned fight. A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.
Unlike Stryver, Carton unselfishly asks Lucie only to let him
carry through the rest of my misdirected life, the remembrance that I opened my heart to you, last of all the world; and there was something left in me at this time which you could deplore and pity.
Finally, with Charles Darnay, Sydney Carton's alter-ego, Lucie finds true love. Showing great respect for the paternal love of Dr. Manette for his daughter and her devotion to him, Darnay tells the physician that he wishes to honor their love and not come between them, but he loves Lucie: "Heaven is my witness that I love her." He promises devotion to Manette as well as Lucie. His reverence for the love of daughter and father, as well as his devotion of Lucie, demonstration the humanness and unselfishness of Darnay's love.
Thus, in the three proposals to Lucie Manette, three types of love are presented: selfish and self-centered love in the person of the pompous C. J. Stryver, the idealization of love in the character of one who seeks redemption, Sydney Carton, and genuine, earthly, and human love in Charles Darnay.
The three men who desire to court Lucie Manette are C.J. Stryver, Sydney Carton, and Charles Darnay.
C.J. Stryver, a lawyer, is a man with an extremely and unrealistically high opinion of himself. He decides that he will essentially do Lucie Manette a favor, and offer to take her hand in marriage. On his way to announce his intent, he runs into Mr. Lorry, who is a close friend of the Manettes. When Mr. Stryver tells Mr. Lorry what he is about to do, Mr. Lorry, who, like everyone else except Mr. Stryver, sees him for what he is, tactfully expresses his misgivings. Mr. Stryver cannot understand why Mr. Lorry does not seem to think his proposal to marry Lucie will be successful, as he is "eligible...prosperous...and advancing." Mr. Lorry is insistent, however, and Mr. Stryver abandons his quest, with the intent of placing the blame for its failure on someone other than himself (Book the Second, Chapter 12).
Sydney Carton's courtship of Lucie is the opposite of Mr. Stryver's. Carton has led a degenerate, empty life, and is fully aware of his own responsibility for his condition. His love for Lucie is true, however, and he goes to visit her, confessing his unworthiness and the impossibility of changing things. Knowing that he will never have Lucie, he only wants her to know that she has inspired him and that he loves her with a love that is so deep and true, that he would do anything for her happiness. In a clear foreshadowing of what is to come, Sydney Carton tells Lucie, that he is
"a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you" (Book the Second, Chapter 13).
Charles Darnay is the only viable suitor of the three men interested in courting Lucie Darnay. Following the rules of convention and honor, he approaches her father to get permission to declare his intentions to Lucie. Darnay asks Dr. Manette only for permission to court Lucie; he is clear in communicating the fact that he wants no favoritism, no word from her father to Lucie that would give him an advantage over her other suitors. Charles Darnay confides to Dr. Manette that he has a secret concerning his true name and his past, and Dr. Manette, in giving him the permission he seeks, asks him, should his courtship be successful, not to reveal his secret until until the morning of his wedding day (Book the Second, Chapter 10).