What is ironic about the titles "The Fellow of Delicacy" and "The Fellow of No Delicacy" in Book the Second of A Tale of Two Cities?Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities  

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Absolutely ironical, the two chapters in Book the Second provide character descriptions of C. J. Stryver and Sydney Carton.  While the reader would expect Stryver, who "shoulders his way" through life, knocking people about at Tellson's Bank and who exploits the talents of his associate, to be "The Fellow of No Delicacy," his character development takes place in the chapter entitled "The Fellow of Delicacy."  Furthermore, Stryver adds to his quality of obtuseness by informing Mr. Lorry that he has decided to offer himself as a husband to Miss Manette as Dickens wrily narrates,

Mr. Stryver having made up his mind to that magnanimous bestowal of good fortune on the Doctor’s daughter, resolved to make her happiness known to her before he left town for the Long Vacation.

To his announcement that he is going to marry Lucie--"no plainer case could be"--even before he has spoken to her, the astonished Mr. Lorry can only remark, "Oh, my!"  And, when Mr. Lorry tries diplomatically to dissuade Mr. Stryver, the crass Stryver demands of Lorry what is the meaning of his words.  After becoming angry at Mr. Lorry's words that he should not go to the Manette's without having some cause to believe that he should succeed.  Enraged at the insult, Stryver, ironically called "the fellow of delicacy" retorts,

"...You deliberately advise me not to go up to Soho and offer myself--myself, Stryver of the King's Bench bard?....ha, ha!--beats everthing past, present, and to come."

 Stryver projects the inadequacies upon Lucie, declaring her "a mincing fool."Then, the "delicate" Mr. Stryver turns and bursts out of the Bank, blowing past two clerks who hung onto their counters for dear life.

Unlike the bullish Stryver, Sydney Carton is quiet and passive.  Lacking confidence in himself, he,nevertheless, "carries his delicacy into Devonshire to the home of the Manettes, but he cannot bring himself to propose to Lucie as he feels unworthy of her.  However, he does pledge his loyalty and love to her, but in a subtle manner.  As a "fellow of no delicacy," Carton ironically is the man who speaks more deferentially to Lucie than any other.  Humbly, this truly delicate man, not the fellow of no delicacy as he is called, tells Lucie,  

"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.”

 Carton avows to Lucie that he will do all in his power to protect her and those that she loves.  Rather than announcing to Lucie how privileged she would be to have him as a husband as Stryver has planned to do, Carton humbles himself, saying he is not worthy to do anything but serve Lucie with his love:

"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.”

Clearly, the titles of Chapter 12 and 13 of Book the Second are ironically switched.

 

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