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A TALE OF TWO CITIES: FREE STUDY GUIDE
Dickens continues his satirical portrait of Mr. Stryver when he refers to
him as a fellow of delicacy; in truth, he is just the opposite. At Tellson's
Bank he shows that he is pompous, almost swelling up to fill the place
with his presence; he proudly tells Mr. Lorry that he is going to marry
Lucie. Mr. Lorry tactfully tries to point out that his proposal may not
be accepted. Stryver cannot imagine that anyone would not want to be his
wife. When Lucie rejects Stryver as a suitor, his only reaction is that
she is a fool to turn his offer down. He then tries to make it seem as
though he is rejecting Lucie. It is obvious that Stryver regards himself
highly and is always spurred by his selfish motives. His characteristic
of shoving people around is demonstrated when he shoulders Mr. Lorry out
of his house while giving an appearance of generosity, forbearance, and
Carton is a frequent visitor at the Manette residence; during his visits, however, he is usually gloomy and pretends that he cares for nothing in life. In truth, he is obsessed with Lucie. He wanders to her house on countless nights when his drinking has brought no relief to his melancholy. Carton just wants to be near the girl of his dreams.
One day when he goes to Soho to visit the Manettes, Carton finds Lucie alone at her work. He takes the opportunity to bare his heart to Lucie, professing his deep love for her. He states that he does not expect her to reciprocate his love, for he feels unworthy of her beauty and goodness. He admits that he is a wasted drunk who will only sink further. He is glad, however, that Lucie has rekindled a flame in him, for its warmth is enough to keep him going. He does not have to live with her to love her. In fact, he ironically promises that should the need arrive, he will gladly give his life to replace that of someone she loves.
The kind-hearted Lucie is touched by Cartonís confession and tries to be reassuring.
She states that Carton can be saved and brought on the right track; however,
Carton feels that there is nothing to be done with his life and that his
grim fate is sealed.
Cartonís proposal to Lucie can be contrasted with that of Mr. Stryver. He is the only suitor who talks directly to the woman he loves. Darnay talks to her father and only wants him to remember to tell her about his love in case she confides in him. Stryver is prohibited by Mr. Lorry from approaching Lucie since he wishes to protect her from any embarrassment. Carton goes before Lucie and confesses his love, which is not based on passion; it is a pure and noble affection, unlike Stryver's selfish one.
The proud and arrogant Stryver is certain that Lucie will accept his proposal of marriage. Carton feels totally opposite. He knows that he is a waster and does not stand a chance of winning Lucie, a beautiful and virtuous girl. He does not nurture the hope of reforming himself by marrying her. Still, she is the one bright spot in his dissipated life, bringing out the best in him. Just the thought of her makes him rise out of his usual despondency and flippancy to become ardent and sincere.
Lucie, in keeping with her character, shows compassion for Carton and encourages
him to better himself. Little does she realize that she has aroused in
him an urge for self-sacrifice and that he is going to redeem himself
by fulfilling the promise he makes to her. This promise, that he will
sacrifice himself to make her happy, is vital to the plot. It foreshadows
things to come.
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