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Free Study Guide: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - Free BookNotes

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BOOK TWO: The Golden Thread

CHAPTER FOUR: Congratulatory


After the trial, Dr. Manette, Lucie Manette, Mr. Lorry, and Mr. Stryver stand around Charles Darnay congratulating him on his acquittal. Dr. Manette, with his intellectual face and upright figure, no longer looks like the shoemaker of the garret in Paris. However, if that past time is ever mentioned, his spirit becomes clouded with a gloomy fit of abstraction. Only his daughter has the power to charm away the dark brooding from his mind.

Darnay kisses Lucie's hand warmly and gratefully and turns to thank Mr. Stryver. Dr. Manette suddenly looks at Darnay with dislike and distrust. Since the Doctor is tired, Lucie takes him home. Mr. Lorry also departs. Sydney Carton approaches Darnay and asks him how it feels to be looking at his double, referring to himself. Darnay responds that he only feels faint from the trial. Mr. Carton suggests that he should get something to eat and escorts him to a tavern.

Darnay thanks Mr. Carton for his timely aid even though he is starting to dislike this coarse double of himself. Mr. Carton also dislikes Darnay’s attention to Lucie since he too is attracted to her. At the tavern, Mr. Carton drinks too much, making Darnay uncomfortable. He pays the bill and prepares to leave. Before he departs, Mr. Carton tells Darnay that he is alone in the world; he cares for no one, and no one cares for him. When he is by himself in the tavern, Carton drinks some more wine and falls asleep on his arms.


Dr. Manette is no longer pale and stooped, and his face reveals his intelligence. He has significantly improved under his tender daughter's care. Lucie is the "Golden Thread" that unites him to a past before his misery and to a present beyond his misery. The sound of her compassionate voice and the light on her face helps him to forget the intervening period. Dr. Manette still has some unpleasant memories, which surface from time to time. When he looks at Darnay, Manette seems to remember something about him that he does not like. This fact is crucial to the plot later in the story. Dickens for now, however, keeps up the suspense as to what the connection is.

Darnay is attracted to Lucie, as evidenced by his gracious kissing of her hand and kind thanks to her for vouchsafing his character. Carton is also attracted to Lucie. They are not, however, attracted to one another. Darnay dislikes Carton’s coarseness, cynicism, and drinking, and Carton dislike Darnay’s smoothness, especially in his approach to Lucie. Their mutual dislike for each other is ironic, for in the end it is Carton who saves the life of Darnay. This man who “cares about no one” makes the ultimate sacrifice in order to insure Lucie’s happiness.

Mr. Stryver is also described in the chapter. He is a stout, young man of thirty who looks old for his age. He is free from any delicacy, and shoulders his way morally and physically through life.



Mr. Stryver’s practice as a barrister has been rapidly increasing, probably due in part to his being loud-voiced and pushy. He is judged to be an intelligent lawyer who can extract the essentials from any information. He is also judged as bold and unscrupulous; perhaps that is why he is friendly with Mr. Carton. The two of them often drink together into the late hours of the night; Stryver drinks for enjoyment, while Carton drinks from frustration. It is rumored that Mr. Carton often goes home, stealthily and unsteadily, at dawn.

Carton, who is the most idle and unpromising of men, accompanies Mr. Stryver on every case that he tries in court. As in Darnay’s trial, Carton sits silently in the courtroom with his hands in his pockets and his eyes on the ceiling. Although Sydney Carton is not aggressive, he is extremely shrewd and helps Stryver plan his defense. Sometimes, he interjects something into the trial, as seen when he throws the piece of paper at Stryver during Darnay’s trial. It was Carton’s cleverness that saved Darnay for the death penalty.

Mr. Carton, who is asleep in the tavern, is awakened by a man at ten o'clock as requested. He gets up, dons his hat, and makes his way to the chambers of Mr. Stryver. They go into a dingy room lined with books and littered with papers. A kettle steams on the fire, and on the table sits a large supply of wine, brandy, rum, sugar, and lemons. It becomes apparent during their meeting that even though Mr. Stryver takes all the credit for Darnay's acquittal, it is actually Mr. Carton who had planned his defense. Mr. Stryver proposes a toast to Miss Manette, whom he judges to be beautiful; Mr. Carton calls her a golden-haired doll. When Carton finally goes off to bed, he is drunk and tearful, knowing how incapable he is of taking care of himself or his interests.


Stryver is an insensitive fool who feels that he is superior to Carton. He boasts that he was born to be successful, and even Carton admits that Stryver is always somewhere while he is nowhere. Ironically, Stryver's success as a lawyer is largely due to his ability to pick the shrewd mind of Carton. By employing the disreputable, drunk lawyer, Stryver has been able to win a large number of cases. He is pictured as a lion feeding on what the Jackal kills.

It is Carton’s basic nature to do things for others, not for himself. He has a vision of "honorable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance." These traits are seen in his helping Stryver on his cases, noticing that Lucie has swooned and getting help, and rescuing Darnay from death. Though he is a very clever man, Carton allows his frustrations to get the better of him. Ironically, on seeing his double Darnay, he realizes that he could have been much the same sort of fellow, if he had just been lucky. Darnay, however, will be the lucky one to win Lucie, Carton’s “golden doll.”

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