Read With Me: A Tale of Two Cities, Book II, Chapters X-XI

Previously: Book II, Chapter IX | Coming Soon: Book II, Chapters XII-XIII

Welcome to the eleventh week of this read-with-me project. This week we read Chapter IX: Two Promises and Chapter XI: A Companion Picture. This section was first released in a magazine called All the Year Round on Saturday, July 9th 1859.

The story so far…
We spent some time following a character who turned out to be Charles Darnay’s uncle in Paris. During these chapters, we got to see the contrast between the rich and the poor. At the end of the chapter, the uncle is found dead, showing that the poorer citizens are not blind to the actions of the rich and not completely powerless.

In this section…
The first chapter begins a year after the events of the previous chapter. This is not the first time jump we’ve had in this book, a fact which is interesting because it shows that this is a far-reaching narrative.

Charles Darnay is now a French tutor splitting his time between London and Cambridge. He’s still in love with Lucie Manette but has yet to tell her. Instead, he decided to go and see Dr Manette, at a time he knows Lucie won’t be there, to discuss his feelings and announce his intentions.

Dr Manette informed him that two other men have been frequenting the house and are potential competition for Charles Darnay in Lucie’s affection. These men are anyone other than Sydney Carton and Mr Stryver, a lawyer who Sydney works with and we have met in previous chapters. Stryver is the lawyer who defended Charles at his trial.

The news of Charles’ intentions towards Lucie causes Dr Manette distress. After Charles leaves, Lucie arrives home and hears him crying in his room, along with the sounds of him using his shoemaking tools. This suggests a regression in his mental state as he returns to the loneliest time in his life when he was imprisoned, at the prospect of losing his daughter.

The following chapter, ‘A Companion Picture’, follows the two rivals for Lucie’s affection, Sydney and Mr Stryver, both of whom are quite tipsy. Over even more drinks Mr Stryver announces his intention to marry Lucie.

How does Sydney feel about this? He drinks some more. I love his reaction here. Even though it’s almost a non-reaction it’s very telling. It’s already been hinted at that he’s somewhat reliant on alcohol, so it makes sense that it’s to alcohol that he turns upon such news. Even when Stryver asks for his opinion directly Sydney, the latter still doesn’t truly give him an answer. Instead, he turns Stryvers words back on him.

[Mr Stryver:] Are you astonished [that I want to propose to Lucie]?”
Carton, still drinking the punch, rejoined, “Why should I be astonished?”
“You approve?”
Carton, still drinking the punch, rejoined, “Why should I not approve?”

It’s also notable that during this exchange he does not lie to Stryver. This suggests that whatever faults we may find in Sydney’s character he is not a liar.

The chapter concludes with Stryver recommending marriage to Sydney so that he will have someone to care for him as he grows older. This shows us that Stryver doesn’t see Sydney as a character who could change and grow and be able to care for himself. It also suggests that he does not see Sydney falling in love, which draws us back to that quote from Chapter IV where Sydney says “ I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.”.

What about you… Are you reading along with A Tale of Two Cities, and if so, what did you think of this section?

Dates for your diary:
Chapters XII-XIII on the 16th of July (Post: 18th of July)
Chapter XIV on the 23rd of July (Post: 25th of July)
Chapter XV on the 30th of July (Post: on the 1st of August)

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