Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Big Read III: A Tale of Two Cities: Book 2: Ch. 1-5

Book 2: The Golden Thread

Chapter 1: Five Years Later

Once upon a time it was the long-established bank that was the sort of business one trusted. Tellson's was old. Dickens pokes right through the crusty tradition.

In this respect the House was much on a par with the Country; which did very often disinherit its sons for suggesting improvements in laws and customs that had long been highly objectionable, but were only the more respectable.

Cramped in all kinds of dun cupboards and hutches at Tellson's, the oldest of men carried on the business gravely. When they took a young man into Tellson's London house, they hid him somewhere till he was old. They kept him in a dark place, like a cheese, until he had the full Tellson flavour and blue-mould upon him.
I think Dickens liked cheese. He uses cheese a lot in his descriptions. I'm still wondering what the role of the bank is in all this. It's more like they hold birthrights, rather than simply money. Why do they help a girl retrieve her crumbling father in another country, when it sounded like they had no money? Why are the messenger Crutcher's fingers rusty?
"Al-ways rusty! His fingers is al-ways rusty!" muttered young Jerry. "Where does my father get all that iron rust from? He don't get no iron rust here!"
Book 2: Chapter 2: A Sight

Why is a bank sending a messenger to the trial of a traitor? I begin to get the feeling Mr. Lorry is the bank's version of a secret agent. What is the bank's interest in this trial, and in the Manettes? The bank does business in England and in France, yet France is helping the enemy, the colonies, right? Could it be the bank is protecting some shady business?

Book 2: Chapter 3: The Disappointment (continued) (some more) (and more)

Some things don't change: "a buzz arose in the court as if a cloud of great blue-flies were swarming..."

So Mr. Lorry is a witness to the travel of the alleged traitor. Still, what does it matter to the bank what the outcome is? Miss Manette, also a witness. She bursts into tears. "Buzzing from the blue-flies." Dr. Manette is also a witness, but he does not remember the meeting when they were crossing to England. He received sympathetic treatment regarding his incarceration in France. Since Miss Manette as a witness was sympathetic toward the prisoner, and the court sympathetic toward the Doctor, I don't think it helped the State's case. So when the defense produces Mr. Carton, who looks just like the prisoner, another witness's testimony is shattered. The person he saw could have been this man, or another man. Mr. Carton is another character who appears to "see nothing," yet he notices when Miss Manette needs air.
Hastily written on the paper was the word "AQUITTED."

"If you had sent the message, 'Recalled to Life,' again," muttered Jerry, as he turned, "I should have known what you meant, this time."
I thought maybe he was the same messenger avoiding the bullet at the coach to Dover.

Book 2: Chapter 4: Congratulatory

Dr. Manette remembers little of his bad time in France, when he checked out and took up shoemaking. Yet the acquitted man, Charles Darney, sparks this from him:
His face had become frozen, as it were, in a very curious look at Darnay: an intent look, deepening into a frown of dislike and distrust, not even unmixed with fear. With this strange expression on him his thoughts had wandered away.

Mr. Carton and Mr. Darnay toast Miss Manette. Mr. Carton seems a bit envious.
"That's a fair young lady to be pitied by and wept for by! How does it feel? Is it worth being tried for one's life, to be the object of such sympathy and compassion, Mr. Darnay?"
Book 2: Chapter 5: The Jackal

It seems the lawyer could not be who he is without his Mr. Carton. The lion needs the jackal.
It had once been noted at the Bar, that while Mr. Stryver was a glib man, and an unscrupulous, and a ready, and a bold, he had not that faculty of extracting the essence from a heap of statements, which is among the most striking and necessary of the advocate's accomplishments. ...Stryver never had a case in hand, anywhere, but Carton was there, with his hands in his pockets, staring at the ceiling of the court...
Let me think about the jackal. It is thought to be vicious, smart, and a scavenger. It seeks the weakest points of its prey and exploits them. It surrounds and attacks. Alone, it won't be strong enough, but in a pack, watch out. Mr. Carton is locked into his position in life. Even with a glimpse of some lighter world, he can't leave this position as the jackal to his master, the lion.
Waste forces within him, and a desert all around, this man stood still on his way across a silent terrace, and saw for a moment, lying in the wilderness before him, a mirage of honourable ambition, self-denial, and perseverance. In the fair city of this vision, there were airy galleries from which the loves and graces looked upon him, gardens in which the fruits of life hung ripening, waters of Hope that sparkled in his sight. A moment, and it was gone.
Read more over at Bookshelves of Doom.

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