A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 2: Chapter 5 - The Jackal

Summary

After a waiter at the tavern awakens him, Carton walks from the tavern to Stryver's chambers. The two work on some cases, with Carton doing the brunt of the work. When they finish, Carton and Stryver discuss their school days together and the differences in their fortunes — how Stryver moved ahead in his profession while Carton remained in Stryver's shadow. The discussion turns to Lucie, whom Stryver admires and whom Carton dismisses as "a golden-haired doll."With dawn breaking, Carton heads home, envisioning for a moment how much richer his life might have been if he had been a man who practiced self-denial and perseverance. Facing the reality of his empty room, he goes to bed, falling asleep on a pillow wet with tears.

Analysis

Continuing the development of Carton's character, Dickens establishes Carton's failure to live up to his professional potential by comparing him with Stryver. Although the two men went through school together and have shared similar professional opportunities, Carton remains the jackal (researcher and assistant) to Stryver's lion (prominent lawyer). Carton is undoubtedly more intelligent than Stryver, but he lacks the ambition and resolve that make Stryver a success. Stryver notes that Carton seems out of sorts that evening, and indeed, the events of the trial have obviously stirred up feelings of dissatisfaction in Carton.

As he makes his way home, the setting reflects Carton's feelings of emptiness and unhappiness: "the air was cold and sad, the dull sky overcast, the river dark and dim, the whole scene like a lifeless desert."When he imagines "a mirage of honorable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance"in which love, life, and hope are all possibilities, Carton reveals his awareness of his wasted potential. His bitterness toward Darnay and his shortness with Stryver reflect the feelings of regret that have arisen in him upon seeing the one person he knows could redeem him — Lucie Manette — and knowing that his choices have put her forever out of his reach.

Glossary

Bacchanalian propensities a tendency toward drinking alcohol.

the Sessions meetings of legal officials to transact court business.

Hilary Term and Michaelmas the terms during which the courts heard cases. Hilary Term lasted from January 11-31, and Michaelmas term lasted from November 2-25.

jackal someone who performs menial tasks for another.

perspective-glass any device that aids a person's vision, like opera glasses.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

During the day Jerry Cruncher is a porter for Tellson’s Bank. What is his occupation at night?




Quiz