Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Volume II, Chapter Five – The Jackal

By Charles Dickens

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Volume II, Chapter Five – The Jackal

  • Folks drank a lot in those days.
  • Unsurprisingly, Mr. Stryver drinks a lot. So does Carton.
  • Here’s the difference, though: when Stryver gets drunk, he becomes worthless.
  • Come to think of it, Stryver’s often worthless.
  • Carton, on the other hand, can down a few and still be on top of his game.
  • For reasons that no one can figure out, Carton and Stryver are thick as thieves. They’re BFFs.
  • Okay, they’re not exactly friends: Carton can’t stand the fact that Stryver’s a big jerk.
  • Nonetheless, he spends most of his nights solving Stryver’s cases for him.
  • Stryver, in the meanwhile, gets very, very drunk and mumbles to himself.
  • There’s a good reason why Stryver calls Carton "Memory": he’s the brains behind all of Stryver’s operations.
  • Dickens starts to have some fun with the relationship between Carton and Stryver.
  • Stryver’s sort of like a lion…he’s at the top of the food chain. King of the hill.
  • And if Stryver’s a lion, then Carton is…a jackal.
  • Lions are hunters; jackals are scavengers, scooping up the leftovers after animals like lions bring home the prey.
  • Hmm…does something seem off here?
  • For one thing, Stryver’s the guy who’s getting spoon-fed legal insight from Carton.
  • For another…well, the first one was all we had, actually.
  • But you get the picture. The metaphor doesn’t quite fit. Could Dickens be using a little bit of irony here?
  • Stryver gets pretty happy on his punch and, after a while, he begins to reminisce about his past.
  • And Carton’s past, come to think of it.
  • They’ve been together since school.
  • Back in the old days, Carton used to write Stryver’s term papers. Now he’s writing Stryver’s legal briefs.
  • Some things never change.
  • As Stryver pours himself another drink, he wants Carton to drink to the "pretty witness" who came to court today.
  • Carton gulps for a second, and then he mutters some unpleasant things about Lucie.
  • Okay, they’re not that bad. But he does call her a "golden doll."
  • Stryver’s taken aback. He was sure he caught Carton staring at Lucie for most of the day.
  • Carton insists that Lucie means nothing to him. Nothing. Seriously.
  • Falling back into a drunken stupor, Stryver heads to bed.
  • Left by himself, Carton ponders why his life is so unhappy.
  • He imagines love and happiness for a brief moment, but then his masochism sets back in.
  • He could never win Lucie.
  • Depressed, he settles back in for another drink.

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