Book the Second: The Golden Thread Chapters 5–6
Summary: Chapter 5: The Jackal
Sydney Carton, the “idlest and most unpromising of men,” makes his way from the tavern to Mr. Stryver’s apartment. The men drink together and discuss the day’s court proceedings. Stryver, nicknamed “the lion,” compliments his friend, “the jackal,” for the “rare point” that he made regarding Darnay’s identification. However, he laments Carton’s moodiness. Ever since their days in school together, Stryver observes, Carton has fluctuated between highs and lows, “now in spirits and now in despondency!” Carton shrugs off Stryver’s accusation that his life lacks a unified direction. Unable to match Stryver’s vaulting ambition, Carton claims that he has no other choice but to live his life “in rust and repose.” Attempting to change the subject, Stryver turns the conversation to Lucie, praising her beauty. Carton dismisses her as a “golden-haired doll,” but Stryver wonders about Carton’s true feelings for her. Summary: Chapter 6: Hundreds of People
Four months later, Mr. Lorry, now a trusted friend of the Manette family, arrives at DoctorManette’s home. Finding Manette and his daughter not at home, he converses with Miss Pross. They discuss why the doctor continues to keep his shoemaker’s bench. Their conversation also touches on the number of suitors who come to call on Lucie. Miss Pross complains that they come by the dozen, by the hundred—all “people who are not at all worthy of Ladybird.” In Miss Pross’s opinion, the only man worthy of Lucie is her own brother, Solomon Pross, who, she laments, disqualified himself by making a certain mistake. Lorry knows, however, that Solomon is a scoundrel who robbed Miss Pross of her possessions and left her in poverty. He goes on to ask if Manette ever returns to his shoemaking, and Pross assures him that the doctor no longer thinks about his dreadful imprisonment. Lucie and Manette return, and soon Darnay joins them. Darnay relates that a workman, making alterations to a cell in the Tower of London, came upon a carving in the wall: “D I G.” At first, the man mistook these for some prisoner’s initials, but he soon enough realized that they spelled the word dig. Upon digging, the man discovered the ashes of a scrap of paper on which the prisoner must have written a message. The story startles Manette, but he soon recovers. Carton arrives and sits with the others near a window in the drawing room. The footsteps on the street below make a terrific echo. Lucie imagines that the footsteps belong to people that will eventually enter into their lives. Carton comments that if Lucie’s speculation is true, then a great crowd must be on its way.
Analysis: Chapters 5–6
Dickens devotes Chapter 5 to the character of Sydney Carton, whom he nicknames “the jackal.” Given the secondary meaning of the term—an accomplice in the commission of menial or disreputable acts—the name seems fitting. Alongside his colleague Stryver, Carton seems little more than an assistant. He lacks ambition; in the courtroom he spends his time staring at the ceiling; outside of it, he spends his time getting drunk. Carton accepts his pathetic state—he says to Stryver matter-of-factly, “you have fallen into your rank, and I have fallen into mine.” Yet, for all of his supposed indifference, he betrays his desire for a better, more exalted life. Carton alludes several times to the respectable life that he might have lived. At the end of Chapter 4, he admits to hating Darnay because the man reminds him of what he could have been. He echoes this sentiment in Chapter 5, telling Stryver, “I thought I should have been much the same sort of fellow [as Darnay], if I had had any luck.” These feelings evidence his resentful awareness of Darnay as his double—a successful and happy double, and thus a mocking one. Carton views Darnay as a concrete manifestation of a life he might have led, a life preferable to...
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