The accused, who was (and who knew he was) being mentally hanged, beheaded, and quartered, by everybody there, neither flinched from the situation, nor assumed any theatrical air in it. He was quiet and attentive; watched the opening proceeding with a grave interest; and stood with his hands resting on the slab of wood before him, so composedly, that they had not displaced a leaf of the herbs with which it was strewn.
This is the first time the narrator introduces Charles Darnay, at his trial. Darnay has been charged with treason against the king of England, a serious crime which would end in his death if he were found guilty. However, Darnay remains composed even in the most stressful of circumstances, showing his courage and strength.
“And has left me,” answered the nephew,” bound to a system that is frightful to me, responsible for it, but powerless in it; seeking to execute the last request of my dear mother’s lips, and obey the last look of my dear mother’s eyes, which implored me to have mercy and to redress; and tortured by seeking assistance and power in vain.”
In this scene, Charles Darnay is visiting his uncle the marquis at a chateau in France. Through their exchange we learn that Darnay is a French aristocrat. Darnay makes it clear that he does not support the way his family treats the lower classes and that he desires to live a different sort of life. Darnay intends to remain loyal to his mother’s wishes by making up for the wrongdoings of his family.
“My dear Mr. Lorry, it is because I am a Frenchman born, that the thought (which I did not mean to utter here, however) has passed through my mind often. One cannot help thinking, having had some sympathy for the miserable people, and having abandoned something to them,” he spoke here in his former thoughtful manner, “that one might be listened to, and might have the power to persuade to some restraint.”
Darnay speaks to Mr. Lorry about his desire to return to France. Not only does he feel sympathy for his birth country, but also he feels guilty for leaving behind people he may have been able to help. This sentiment again shows Darnay’s loyalty to his country, but his goals reveal how little he knows of the situation in France. As an aristocrat, he would not be able to convince any of the revolutionaries to show restraint.
The latent uneasiness in Darnay’s mind was roused to vigorous life by this letter. The peril of an old servant and a good one, whose only crime was fidelity to himself and his family, stared him so reproachfully in the face, that, as he walked to and fro in the Temple considering what to do, he almost hid his face from the passers-by.
Darnay receives a letter from a former servant to whom he had left his property and who is now in prison. He struggles with what course of action to take. He had already felt guilt over not helping the situation in France, and the letter pleading for help only exacerbates that feeling. Darnay feels deep shame over the idea of leaving his old servant in danger, an emotion that reveals his lack of prejudice against the lower class.
Like the mariner in the old story, the winds and streams had driven him within the influence of the Loadstone Rock, and it was drawing him to itself, and he must go. Everything that arose before his mind drifted him on, faster and faster, more and more steadily, to the terrible attraction.
The narrator describes Darnay’s decision to return to France to help his servant using a storm metaphor. Despite knowing the danger of the journey, the loyalty Darnay feels towards his servant and his home country are stronger than any fear. This decision displays Darnay’s immense courage even in the face of imprisonment and death.
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