A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities


Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities: Book 2, Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

The narrator describes Mr. Stryver as an ambitious man starting to climb the professional ladder. Due to his problem distilling information, he partnered with Sydney Carton, who now secretly does all the work for Stryver to win his cases. If Stryver is a lion in court, Carton is a cunning jackal behind the scenes.
As his name implies, Stryver "strives" to get ahead in the world. He is uninterested in sacrifice because he is only out for himself.
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After leaving the tavern where he dined with Charles, Carton joins Stryver in his apartment. To stay awake, he wraps a wet towel around his head and works through a pile of legal documents. Stryver watches.
Carton willingly makes himself a slave to Stryver's legal work. He is sacrificing his potential for no reason, which is a kind of suicide.
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Afterwards, Stryver and Carton drink and talk. Stryver comments on Carton's moodiness and lack of direction, which have been evident since their days at university. Carton responds that he lacks Stryver's ambition, and must live in "rust and repose." Stryver changes the subject to Lucie's beauty. Carton mocks her as a "golden-haired doll," but Stryver senses Carton's true feelings might be different.
This exchange reveals an important part of Carton's character and history. He is always working for others, never seeking the credit, as Stryver would. Carton's denials about his interest in Lucie don't even convince Stryver.
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After leaving Stryver, Carton stumbles home through the grey dawn, imagining for a moment a city of hope, full of love and grace. But it passes and he cries into his pillow, resigned to his miserable life.
Carton's vision is of a celestial city in heaven. But in his current state of empty self-pity, he can only glimpse it for a moment.
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