A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 2: Chapter 4 - Congratulatory

Summary

Doctor Manette, Lucie, Mr. Lorry, and Mr. Stryver congratulate Darnay on the verdict. After the group disperses, Carton approaches Darnay and invites him to a nearby tavern for dinner. Once there, Carton's erratic behavior bewilders Darnay. When Darnay tries to thank Carton for his assistance in the trial, Carton shrugs off the thanks and informs Darnay that he doesn't particularly like him. Despite this disclosure, Darnay reiterates his appreciation, pays the bill, and politely excuses himself. Before Darnay can leave, however, Carton confesses that he is drinking heavily because, "I am a disappointed drudge . . . I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me."

After Darnay leaves, Carton reflects that, despite their physical resemblance, the differences between them are great. Darnay embodies what Carton could have been. Carton muses that if he had been like Darnay, he might have the opportunity of being cared about by Lucie. Carton finishes his drink and falls asleep on the table.

Analysis

Central to the theme of doubles and mirror-images that runs through A Tale of Two Cities are the characters of Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay. The previous chapter established their physical similarities; this chapter establishes the differences in their temperaments. Where Darnay is polite, composed, and a gentleman, Carton is ill-mannered, unkempt, and a heavy drinker. Dickens uses the contrast between the two men to emphasize the degree to which Carton is wasting his life, with Darnay serving as a representation of Carton's unrealized possibilities. Dickens stresses this point in Carton's moment of self-reflection in front of the mirror. Contemplating his hostile feelings for Darnay, Carton muses, "He shows you what you have fallen away from, and what you might have been."What Carton has fallen away from is the possibility of a happy life with someone like Lucie Manette.

Glossary

Bastille a state prison in Paris that held many prisoners indefinitely without trial; it was stormed and destroyed (1789) in the French Revolution: its destruction is commemorated on Bastille Day, July 14.

robing room the room where judges and lawyers put on their official robes.

the reckoning the bill.

winding sheet a cloth in which the body of a dead person is wrapped for burial; shroud. Also refers to solidified candle drippings, signifying death.

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