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Free Study Guide-A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens-Free BookNotes
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Chapter Five: The Jackal

Summary

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.

Notes

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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