Les enfants terribles


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Jean Cocteau

In chapter two, the reader finds out what errand Cruncher is undertaking.  He takes a message to Mr. Lorry, who is at the Old Bailey law court.  Moreover, he is instructed to stay at the Old Bailey law court and await further instructions from Mr. Lorry.  Cruncher heads into the courtroom and sees that the court is hearing a treason case.  The person on trial is Charles Darnay.  The reader is not yet familiar with Darnay, but he is apparently known to some of the characters in the novel.  Lucie and Dr. Manette are being called as witnesses against him in the treason trial.  Lucie and Darnay share a look, and she seems to feel sympathy for him, despite being a witness against him.

There are multiple reasons for the courtroom scene.  First, the scene gives tremendous insight into the English criminal justice system, which Dickens clearly finds horrific.  The chapter announces Darnay’s fate in the event of a guilty verdict; he will be drawn and quartered.  Moreover, one particularly disturbing aspect of the scene is the insight Dickens provides into the English public.  The people in the courtroom seem excited about Darnay’s possible sentence, and seem to give little thought to the idea that they are contemplating the death of a fellow human being, at least until they see Lucie’s concern for Darnay.  

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