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Chapter Thirteen: A Fellow of No Delicacy
Carton is a frequent visitor at the Manette residence; during his visits, however, he is usually gloomy and pretends that he cares for nothing in life. In truth, he is obsessed with Lucie. He wanders to her house on countless nights when his drinking has brought no relief to his melancholy. Carton just wants to be near the girl of his dreams.
One day when he goes to Soho to visit the Manettes, Carton finds Lucie alone at her work. He takes the opportunity to bare his heart to Lucie, professing his deep love for her. He states that he does not expect her to reciprocate his love, for he feels unworthy of her beauty and goodness. He admits that he is a wasted drunk who will only sink further. He is glad, however, that Lucie has rekindled a flame in him, for its warmth is enough to keep him going. He does not have to live with her to love her. In fact, he ironically promises that should the need arrive, he will gladly give his life to replace that of someone she loves.
The kind-hearted Lucie is touched by Carton's confession and tries to be reassuring. She states that Carton can be saved and brought on the right track; however, Carton feels that there is nothing to be done with his life and that his grim fate is sealed.
Carton's proposal to Lucie can be contrasted with that of Mr. Stryver. He is the only suitor who talks directly to the woman he loves. Darnay talks to her father and only wants him to remember to tell her about his love in case she confides in him. Stryver is prohibited by Mr. Lorry from approaching Lucie since he wishes to protect her from any embarrassment. Carton goes before Lucie and confesses his love, which is not based on passion; it is a pure and noble affection, unlike Stryver's selfish one.
The proud and arrogant Stryver is certain that Lucie will accept his proposal of marriage. Carton feels totally opposite. He knows that he is a waster and does not stand a chance of winning Lucie, a beautiful and virtuous girl. He does not nurture the hope of reforming himself by marrying her. Still, she is the one bright spot in his dissipated life, bringing out the best in him. Just the thought of her makes him rise out of his usual despondency and flippancy to become ardent and sincere.
Lucie, in keeping with her character, shows compassion for Carton and encourages him to better himself. Little does she realize that she has aroused in him an urge for self-sacrifice and that he is going to redeem himself by fulfilling the promise he makes to her. This promise, that he will sacrifice himself to make her happy, is vital to the plot. It foreshadows things to come.