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

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A TALE OF TWO CITIES: FREE NOTES / LITERARY ANALYSIS

BOOK TWO: The Golden Thread

CHAPTER TEN: Two Promises

Summary

One year goes by, and Charles Darnay is now earning a living in England as a French tutor and translator. As a result of their various roles in the trial, Darnay, Sydney Carton, and Mr. Stryver have become friends of Dr. Manette and his daughter and frequently visit them. Darnay is in love with Lucie, but has not yet openly expressed his feelings.

One summer evening, knowing that Lucie is away from home, Darnay decides to consult her father about his feelings for his daughter. Anticipating what Darnay has to say, the doctor, who is now an energetic man with a firm purpose, does not want to talk about his daughter; Darnay, however, insists on declaring his love for her. He tells Dr. Manette that he understands the closeness between the two of them and would never want to separate father and daughter. Darnay assures the older man that he would always live with them. The Doctor thanks Darnay heartily and believes him to be pure and truthful. He promises that if Lucie ever declares her love for Darnay, he will approve their marriage.

Darnay attempts to tell the Doctor his real name and the reason for his being in England, but the doctor refuses to listen. Instead, he makes Darnay promise to reveal his secret on the morning of his wedding if he is to marry Lucie.


On returning home later that evening, Lucie finds her father in a great state of agitation and finds him back on his shoemaker's bench. On hearing her voice, Dr. Manette comes to her side, and they walk around for a while before going to bed.

Notes

This chapter deals with love in its finest and truest meaning. Darnay places his love for Lucie on the same exalted plane as the old Doctor's love for his dead wife. His proud declaration that he would never want anyone to put in a word for him even if it were to save his life is ironic. He is sure that there is nothing against him to stop Lucie from loving him. His love, however, is not selfish. He does not expect to have Lucie all to himself and does not plan to ever separate her from her father. Darnay recognizes that the affection between Dr. Manette and Lucie is also of the highest order.

The Doctor's words, when he promises to let Lucie marry him if she loves him, are prophetic. He says that even if there are any reasons, any apprehensions, anything whatsoever, new or old, against the man she really loves, he will do anything in his power to obliterate them. He loves his daughter so much that he is willing to forget his sufferings and the wrongs done to him for her happiness. The promise he extracts from Darnay is also important. The Doctor instinctively fears that now is not the right time to learn Darnay's secret as it could prejudice him, and this will in turn affect Lucie's happiness.

Through this meeting with Dr. Manette, more is learned about the character of Darnay. It shows him to be truly noble. He loves Lucie, but does not want to express his feeling to her until he has the doctor’s approval. When he presents his case to Lucie’s father, he can genuinely say he has nothing about which to be ashamed. He does, however, try to explain his family connection to the doctor, who does not want to hear the explanation.

It is important to notice that something about Darnay truly troubles Dr. Manette. When Lucie returns home, he is agitated over the visit. In fact, he is working at the cobbler’s bench, a reflection of the pathetic man he was in France.


CHAPTER ELEVEN: A Companion Picture

Summary

Sydney Carton spends many long nights clearing up Mr. Stryver's legal matters before Stryver goes on his long vacation. Finally, on one such night after the work is complete, Mr. Stryver announces to Carton his intentions to marry. Mr. Stryver assumes that women find him tactful, ambitious, and successful and would be happy to become his wife. He thinks that Lucie would be a suitable choice even though she is poor. Mr. Stryver does not mention even once that he is in love with Lucie.

Stryver also assumes that Carton is disagreeable to women and informs him of this. Carton is amused with Stryver's attitude and pokes fun at him. Stryver fails to notice the satire in Carton's remarks and aggressively continues his assault on Carton's faults. He finally says that perhaps Carton can marry a commoner, someone with property who will look after him when he ages.

Notes

This chapter brings out, very cleverly, the contrast between Stryver and Carton. As a suitor for Lucie's hand, Stryver can also be seen as a sharp contrast to Darnay. He is an offensive, complacent, and obnoxious man who does not really love Lucie. He sees marriage as something that will add to his status. He does not even consider for a moment whether Lucie loves him. He does not care about her feelings; he only wants to please himself. This attitude to marriage is repeated at the end of the chapter when he advises Carton to marry someone who can take care him. He talks to Carton in a patronizing and offensive manner. He seems to have forgotten that his legal practice flourishes because of the ability and hard work of this man. Instead of being appreciative, Stryver calls Carton an insensible dog; ironically it is he who is insensible.

Stryver takes it for granted that, since he is rich, Lucie will be honored by his offer of marriage; he never imagines that she might turn him down. Neither does he see Carton's shocked reaction when he announces the name of the woman he plans to marry. Instead, he concludes that Carton has taken the news very coolly. In fact, Carton's sarcastic remarks, especially when he calls him a "poetic spirit," is lost on this very pompous, insensitive, self-centered boor. Stryver, like his name suggests, strives to push and shoulders men like Carton out of the way.


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