A Tale of Two Cities


Book 2, Chapter 3

While the reader already knew that Darnay was charged with treason, the underlying basis for the treason accusations is explained in chapter three. These charges lead Dickens to describe Darnay as a dead man, and the courtroom spectators to act as if he has already been convicted. There are two main witnesses against Darnay, John Barsad and Roger Cly. Both men act as if they are patriots, and their true identities are not revealed in this chapter. Because Stryver does not know the real stories behind Barsad or Cly, he is unable to discredit them, which makes it seem that Darnay might be convicted. However, Sydney Carton, Stryver’s co-counsel, points out that he and Darnay bear a strong physical resemblance to one another. Stryver uses this physical resemblance to call into question the identification that indicates Darnay was the person identified as waiting at a hotel. While Stryver does not manage to discredit Barsad and Cly during their testimony, he gives a powerful closing statement in which he implicates both men as spies. The jury agrees with Stryver’s conclusion and returns an innocent verdict.

In this chapter, the reader gets the first real introduction to both Darnay and Carton. Of course, the similarity in their physical appearance is noteworthy. However, their differences also become noteworthy during the trial. Though Carton is the lawyer in a high-stakes criminal trial, he seems detached from the proceedings. However, the detachment does not mean that he is unaware of his surroundings; in fact, he is the one who notices the physical similarities between himself and Darnay. This detachment reminds the reader of an earlier character, Madame Defarge, and how her air of aloof detachment seems to mask an underlying attention to detail.

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