Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Volume II, Chapter Two – A Sight

By Charles Dickens

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Volume II, Chapter Two – A Sight

  • Jerry Cruncher heads into the bank to figure out what his assignment for the day will be.
  • An old bank clerk sends him to the courts with a note for Mr. Lorry.
  • Apparently, Mr. Lorry just wants Jerry to hang around as a messenger for him at the court.
  • Interested in the prospect of some excitement at the court, Jerry asks the clerk what sort of trial will be held today.
  • It’s a trial for treason.
  • That means that the accused will be drawn and quartered. Jerry’s pretty excited.
  • We interrupt this summary for a quick history announcement:
  • Drawing and quartering is the traditional punishment for high treason in the U.K. Remember the ending of Braveheart? That’s drawing and quartering.
  • For those of you who aren’t Mel Gibson fans, however, we’ll explain a bit.
  • First, convicted traitors were hanged until they were almost dead.
  • Then they were disemboweled.
  • Then they were beheaded. And their bodies were cut into four parts.
  • In other words, it wasn’t all that pleasant.
  • It wasn’t all that much better for women at the time, either. They weren’t beheaded: they were burned at the stake.
  • Back to our story...
  • Mr. Jerry Cruncher is actually pretty excited about the prospect of a high treason case. Chances are that the guy will be hanged—whether or not he’s guilty.
  • Jerry heads to the court. Mr. Lorry’s already there.
  • The court itself is packed to the gills. Apparently everyone loves a treason case as much as Jerry does.
  • Also, everyone loves a good drink. The place reeks of alcohol.
  • Hmm…sounds more like Judge Judy than Law and Order. We’re not really sure if this is supposed to be a court or a circus.
  • In the center of all the hubbub is the prisoner.
  • He’s going to be central to the story, so we’ll spend some time introducing him.
  • He’s about twenty-five. He appears to be a gentleman. Oh, and did we mention that he’s really good-looking? Well, he is.
  • Although he appears to be a little bit shaken to be in the middle of a three-ring circus, Charles Darnay is, in all other respects, a fine, fine man.
  • Of course, that doesn’t stop the rest of the spectators in the court from mentally hanging, drawing, and quartering the guy before he’s even been tried.
  • …everyone, that is, except for a young woman and a distinguished-looking older man.
  • They’re Lucie and her father, in case you were wondering.
  • As it turns out, they happen to be the key witnesses in the case against Darnay.
  • What? Don’t worry, we’ll explain. It just might take us a chapter or two.

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