illustration of a guillotine

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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Book the Third Chapters 6 and 7 Summary and Analysis

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“Charles Evrémonde, called Darnay,” along with twenty other prisoners, appears before the “dread Tribunal.” Most prisoners are found guilty and sent away for execution. Darnay’s name is called, and he is accused “as an emigrant, whose life was forfeit to the Republic, under the decree which banished all emigrants on pain of Death.” The jury initially calls for his beheading, but Darnay argues that he is not an emigrant (at least not “in the sense and spirit of the law”) and that he returned to France willingly. Furthermore, he explains that he cast off his corrupt family name and relinquished his privilege for a life of hard work in England. He mentions that he married Dr. Manette’s daughter, and (given Dr. Manette’s excellent reputation in Saint Antoine) the jury becomes sympathetic. The letter from Monsieur Gabelle is produced as proof that Darnay returned to Paris to save his former servant, and finally the jury declares that he is free to leave. A mass of people hoists him up in a chair and carries him to the house where Dr. Manette and Lucie have been living.

Lucie, though delighted that Darnay is safe, remains uneasy. She thinks about the innocent people who are “constantly put to death on vague suspicion and black malice” and “every day shared the fate from which [Darnay] had been clutched.” Dr. Manette comforts Lucie but admits that it is unsafe for them to return to England. Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher depart to run errands around Saint Antoine; while they are gone, four officers appear to rearrest Darnay because three people in Saint Antoine have denounced him. Dr. Manette asks who the denouncers are; the officers look at him strangely and say that all will be revealed during a trial the next day. They leave with Darnay.


The novel contrasts Charles Darnay’s English trial, in which he narrowly avoided being executed for treason, with the judicial process of the “dread Tribunal” in Saint Antoine. Though France is in the grip of a bloody revolution, Dickens highlights a crucial similarity between the two cities: an enthusiasm for the public spectacle of execution. Just as anonymous spectators looked forward to Darnay being “quartered” in London, the Tribunal eagerly awaits Darnay’s beheading by La Guillotine. England, therefore, risks being dominated by the same paranoia and brutal insurrection that led to the eruption of the French Revolution. If England should fall to revolution, it may transform into a figurative prison that victims cannot escape—just as Darnay (and his family) cannot escape Paris after his brief liberation from La Force.

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