Throughout the trial in A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens compares the spectators to blue flies. What is he saying about the spectators by continually using this comparison?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens uses the flies as an extended metaphor in the courtroom scene in Chapter Nine to suggest that the way the spectators hovered around the trial is similar to flies that are attracted to a potential feast:

"a buzz arose in the court as if a cloud of great blue-flies were swarming about the prisoner, in anticipation of what he was soon to become" (Chapter 9).

First, flies are an annoyance, as is the buzz of the spectators as they excitedly discuss the possible outcome of the trial.  Dickens' diction, his use of words like "buzz" and "swarm" indicates the narrator does not appreciate or condone the outside involvement of the crowd at the trial; rather he views them as pests. 

He continues this metaphor of the crowd buzzing like flies throughout the key moments of the trial, almost as if the crowd is anticipating that some delightful morsel is about to be served; their fervor is both vicious and punitive.  They want the prisoner to be found guilty, so they can, in their way of thinking, be treated to a gruesome execution.

Note: I referenced chapter 9 above because in my copy of the novel, the chapters from book to book continue numbering chronologically. But in the version of the text on eNotes, the same chapter would be Book II, Chapter Three. 


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