A Tale of Two Cities

Darnay won the support of all the audience in his first trial in France. Discuss.

Chapter 15. "Triumph".

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The court scene in chapter 6 is one of the many manifestations of Dickens's dread of the power of mobs. Although the trial is ostensibly run by the president, it is really the reaction of the crowd to the trial that decides the result. When Darnay asks if it is a crime to hazard his life to save another French citizen, the populace shouts "no" and refuses to be silenced by the president's bell, continuing to shout until the shouting dies out of its own accord. The danger of this power is in the fickle nature of the crowd, who call for blood one moment and in the next moment cry in sympathy with the prisoner.

In this upside-down society, triumph is uncomfortably akin to its opposite. The mob descends on Darnay when he is acquitted in the exact same way that they would have if he had been condemned, with only slightly different results. The pike-decorated chair that the crowd places Darnay on seems more ominous than celebratory. The knowledge that the same crowd could just as easily decide to tear him to pieces almost makes Darnay faint, and the triumphal procession back to his home is so similar to the procession to the guillotine that Darnay has to remind himself which one he is involved in.