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