Explain why, in spite of Sydney Carton's brilliance, he is content to remain the employee of Stryver.A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter 5 of Book the Second of A Tale of Two Cities, it is a dissipated Sydney Carton, the "jackal" who allows himself to be exploited by the lion, C.J.Stryver. In Victorian times, alchoholism was considered a character flaw rather than a disease, so it would seem that Carton's weakness is his drinking.  But, it seems that this drinking comes from his disappointment in himself that he is too submissive.  Even when he was in law school, Carton did the work of others and neglected his own. While Carton complains of his luck, Stryver, much like Brutus's friend Cassius in Julius Caesar,  chastises Carton for failing to create his own fate. Further, Stryver recognizes the personality weaknesses in Sydney Carton:

“the old seesaw Sydney. Up one minute‚ and down the next; now in spirits‚ and now in despondency!”

Apparently, Carton lacks the self-confidence of Stryver, who "shoulders" his way through life, by exploiting others and by literally pushing his competitors out of the way.  Carton is not content with himself; he knows that he could be more, but for whatever reasons, he lacks either the drive or the real desire to be in a position such as Stryver.  Perhaps he is too meek, perhaps he is not secure enough with his talents.  But, for whatever reason Sydney Carton has not been successful and dynamic.  Dickens writes that he has "waste forces within him, and a desert all around him."  But, briefly, there is "a mirage of honourable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance."  As he lies down in his "neglected bed," Sydney Carton sheds "wasted tears" for what he knows he could have been if he had been stronger and more driven.

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