Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Big Read III: A Tale of Two Cities: Bk 2: Ch 10-12

A Tale of Two Cities Book 2: Chapter 10: Two Promises

I like the way Dickens puts it:

Now, from the days when it was always summer in Eden, to these days when it is mostly winter in fallen latitudes, the world of a man has invariably gone one way--Charles Darnay's way--the way of the love of a woman.

Charles Darnay hasn't told Miss Manette how he feels. It's been a year since his father the Marquis's murder. I wonder what he did at that time? Dr. Manette health is recovered:
The energy which had at once supported him under his old sufferings and aggravated their sharpness, had been gradually restored to him.
Charles Darnay seeks the help of the girl's father.
Dear Doctor Manette, I love your daughter fondly, dearly, disinterestedly, devotedly. If ever there were love in the world, I love her. You have loved yourself; let your old love speak for me!"

The Doctor sat with his face turned away, and his eyes bent on the ground. At the last words, he stretched out his hand again, hurriedly, and cried:

"Not that, sir! Let that be! I adjure you, do not recall that!"
Dr. Manette takes Darnay's silence regarding his love as consideration for himself. With this second look, now I'm not so sure. There is much we don't know about Darnay. Could it have something also to do with his own despicable now dead father?
"It would be ungenerous to affect not to know that your self-denial is to be referred to your consideration for her father. Her father thanks you."
Darnay asks of the Doctor:
"It is, that if Miss Manette should bring to you at any time, on her own part, such a confidence as I have ventured to lay before you, you will bear testimony to what I have said, and to your belief in it."
The Doctor is willing to put aside any of his own apprehension toward a man if his daughter loves him. Perhaps his memory is not so fuzzy after all? He definitely has an idea there's something about Charles that has to do with his darkest suffering.
"...She is everything to me; more to me than suffering, more to me than wrong, more to me--Well! This is idle talk."

So strange was the way in which he faded into silence, and so strange his fixed look when he had ceased to speak, that Darnay felt his own hand turn cold in the hand that slowly released and dropped it.
He doesn't want to know Darnay's true name, not yet. I suppose he knows it would distress him, and could thus keep Miss Manette from knowing her own mind about her love. So he also extracts a promise:
"Tell me when I ask you, not now. If your suit should prosper, if Lucie should love you, you shall tell me on your marriage morning. Do you promise?"
Chapter 11: A Companion Picture

Stryver is such a pompous ass, that kind of rich idiot that plays so well in fiction:
"My meaning is that I am a man," said Stryver, inflating himself at his friend as he made the punch, "who cares more to be agreeable, who takes more pains to be agreeable, who knows better how to be agreeable, in a woman's society, than you do."
I loved this repetition. It punctuates so well the distance between the two, and the savvy despair Carton has to live with.
Sydney Carton looked at his punch and looked at his complacent friend; drank his punch and looked at his complacent friend.
Stryver blathers on about Carton's lack of gentlemanliness as opposed to his own, and again...
Sydney Carton drank the punch at a great rate; drank it by bumpers, looking at his friend.
Stryver blathers on some more about how his suit would be so welcome by Miss Manette. Carton responds to his questions with questions, which, as a curmudgeonly guy I knew on an email list was wont to say, "Answering a question with a question is no answer at all."
Are you astonished?"

Carton, still drinking the punch, rejoined, "Why should I be astonished?"

"You approve?"

Carton, still drinking the punch, rejoined, "Why should I not approve?"
Chapter 12: The Fellow of Delicacy

Stryver is so full of himself he's in for a comeuppance.
Mr. Stryver having made up his mind to that magnanimous bestowal of good fortune on the Doctor's daughter, resolved to make her happiness known to her before he left town for the Long Vacation.
For some reason Dickens chooses to spare him, and sends Stryver past Tellson's bank, where he decides to pop in and share the news with Mr. Lorry. Mr. Lorry delicately sets him straight.

I liked this image of the clerks. Banking was different then. I can almost see cobwebs anchoring them to the floor.
Those venerable and feeble persons were always seen by the public in the act of bowing, and were popularly believed, when they had bowed a customer out, still to keep on bowing in the empty office until they bowed another customer in.
Read Leila and other Big Readers here.

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