A Tale of Two Cities Book the Second, Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis

Charles Dickens

Book the Second, Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis

Summary:

Jarvis Lorry, Lucie Manette, Dr. Manette, and Stryver are sitting outside the courtroom with Charles Darnay. They congratulate him on his acquittal. Darnay enthusiastically kisses Lucie’s hand, and Dr. Manette shoots him a mysterious look of distrust. Lucie, Dr. Manette, and Stryver leave the courthouse, but Lorry and Darnay encounter Sydney Carton in the street. Lorry and Carton discuss business.

Lorry leaves Carton and Darnay alone. Carton, who is intoxicated, escorts Darnay to the nearest tavern. The two men drink a toast to Lucie, and Darnay eats dinner. Carton becomes increasingly inebriated and asks Darnay a series of odd questions. Darnay departs for the evening, and Carton retires to his apartment. Carton stares at himself in a mirror and says he hates Darnay because they look so much alike and Darnay’s image reminds Carton of what he could have been. Carton instructs a man at the tavern to wake him later that evening and falls into a drunken sleep.

Carton meets with Stryver later that night. We learn that Carton is actually Stryver’s “great ally” and boils down Stryver’s legal papers so he can better understand them. Carton works until three in the morning, drinking all the while. Afterwards, Carton resumes complaining about his life and blames Stryver for leaving him no other option but to “rust and repose.” Stryver changes the subject to Lucie Manette’s beauty. Carton claims that he does not think Lucie is beautiful, and this deeply offends Stryver. We learn that Stryver is very fond of Lucie. Carton, feeling utterly dejected about his wasted life, returns home in the cold light of morning.

Analysis:

The stark contrast between Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, who are nearly identical in appearance, is emphasized during their uncomfortable exchange in the tavern. Darnay is well-mannered, temperate, and hardworking; Carton, however, is a lazy and rude drunk. He wasted his potential during his youth (due, as he complains to Stryver, to circumstances outside of his control) and considers his lot in life to be unredeemable. He is the “jackal” to Stryver’s “lion”; he “boil[s] down” Stryver’s papers, an apparently very tedious task, but Stryver is the one who reaps the benefits of the work. As we shall see, Carton’s bitter wish to “switch places” with Darnay will become quite significant.