In A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, what is Carton's job and daily working routine? (Book 2, Chapter 5)

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sydney Carton, described as an "idlest and most unpromising of men," drinks with Mr. Stryver, the lawyer. "What the two drank together...might have floated a king's ship," as Dickens writes. Carton accompanies Stryver to the court, and, very late at night, Carton assists Stryver with his legal work, acting in a way that Stryver refers to as "Memory." With cold towels on his head and still drinking heavily, Carton basically does all of Stryver's work for him. He is clearly smarter than Stryver, but Carton asks for no credit for his brilliant legal work.

Carton reflects that even at school, he always did other boys' work for them and did not do his own work. Carton says that Stryver, the so-called Lion, has always been so aggressive that he, referred to as The Jackal, had no choice but to live in "rust and repose." In other words, Carton is the brilliant scheming man in the shadows who allows Stryver to live in glory in the spotlight. 

dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Carton is a sort of lawyer associate to Stryker.  Although he is brilliant, he is also severely alcoholic, and so serves as a helper, or "jackal", to Stryker rather than as a lawyer on his own.  When Stryker must appear in court, Carton manages to be there too, "with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ceiling of the court", but his primary work is in the evenings, from about 10 p.m. until 3 a.m.when he goes over to Stryker's residence and reads and condenses his legal papers so that Stryker can easily understand them.  He also generally acts as a servant to Stryker, and goes carousing with him when the work is done.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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