A Tale of Two Cities Book the Second, Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis

Charles Dickens

Book the Second, Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis

Summary:

Stryver pays a visit to Tellson’s Bank to tell Lorry that he plans to marry Lucie Manette. Lorry is shocked and respectfully urges Stryver to reconsider. Stryver is outraged and retorts that Lucie Manette would have to be a “mincing Fool” to not want to marry him. Lorry becomes angry and tells Stryver that he will not tolerate anyone speaking badly of Lucie. Ultimately, Stryver takes Lorry’s advice and forgets the matter, saying he was not very serious about marriage in the first place.

Sydney Carton pays a visit to Lucie while she is working at home alone. She observes that he looks ill, and he complains about having led a miserable life. He declares that he loves her, that she is too good for him, and that he would give his life for her and anyone dear to her. She cries out of pity for him, and he asks that she keep his visit (and confession) in the strictest confidence.

Analysis:

Stryver and Sydney Carton both invest a great deal of effort in appearing a certain way: Stryver considers himself a hard worker (he strives for success in all aspects of his life), and Sydney Carton considers himself an irredeemable and lazy drunk. Neither man, however, behaves in a way that is consistent with his assumed identity. Stryver exhibits an arrogance similar to the entitlement of the aristocracy and leaves his hard work for Sydney Carton to complete. He assumes that Lucie will agree to marry him, though he has done none of the work to court her. Similarly, his conclusion that she must be a “Mincing fool” to not want to marry him suggests that he has no interest in her needs. Sydney Carton, though committed to leading a miserable and selfish life, demonstrates that he is entirely capable of love and self-sacrifice when he speaks to Lucie about his affection for her. His earlier insults about her beauty were mere attempts to maintain his identity as a curmudgeonly bachelor. He is keenly aware of his unsuitability as her suitor, acknowledging that she would be miserable as his wife. His behavior suggests that he may be capable of goodness—and therefore be capable of the figurative resurrection for which Lucie hopes.