Eléments de philosophie


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Carton leaves the tavern and goes straight to Stryver’s office, where the two of them work on some cases.  Like the dinner scene in chapter four, the men’s meeting serves as a means of providing more information about both Stryver and Carton.  Their conversation reveals that the two men attended school together, but that Carton has not achieved the same success in his career as Stryver.  Instead, Carton has worked in a subordinate position to Stryver.  Stryver is known as the lion for his aggressive courtroom style, while Carton is referred to as the jackal because he plays a supporting role to Stryver. This conversation also introduces Stryver as one who is vying for Lucie’s attention; he admires her unabashedly.  Carton hides his emerging feelings for Lucie and actually disparages her to Stryver.  However, Carton’s self-reflection continues long after the men’s discussion.  On his way home, underneath an ominous sky, he continues his ruminations and thinks upon Lucie, who he believes has the power to redeem him, but also decides that his own actions have made Lucie, and women like her, inaccessible to him. His thoughts reveal more self-blame, along with the idea that he has allowed his life to be diminished because he gives up easily and indulges his desires.  Carton literally cries himself to sleep that evening, revealing a man who is much more complex than the boorish image he presents to others in the book.

The comparison between Carton and Stryver is a continuation of Dickens’s theme of doubles, as well as an exploration of Carton’s character.   It is not that Dickens paints a flattering portrait of Stryver; Stryver is characterized as a somewhat typical attorney who pounces upon available professional opportunities, using the misery of others to build up his own personal and professional repertoire.  Carton appears to be the more intelligent of the two men, but he lacks Stryver’s ambition and self-interest.  Although the two men may not be friends in the conventional sense, they certainly share a history, and there is some degree of caring between them.  For example, Stryver notices that Carton does not appear to be himself that evening, so that he is the first person to note that Carton’s newfound self-reflection is out of character for him.         

The novel also contains significant foreshadowing at this point.  Carton’s thoughts about Lucie focus on the idea of Lucie as some sort of savior who could help redeem Carton if she were not beyond his reach.  It is important to note that there really has not been sufficient interaction between Lucie and Carton for him to come to this type of conclusion; he is projecting an image onto her that she may not actually deserve.  However, Carton is a man who is desperately in need of a savior.  By the conclusion of the novel, Lucie will become the reason for Carton’s redemption, but in a way that could not be anticipated at this point in the book.

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