“The Tale of two cities” is remarkable for acute and accurate rendering historical reality. Although, it was without author’s significant stroke that the picture was accomplished. The revolutionary idea was and idea of expose and condemnation, two of them being inseparable. The concept of transparency of man’s soul and body was that which spanned ‘expose’ and ‘condemnation’.
The blissful sweeping moment of trial was a moment of emotional acme: the soul was recognized to be guilty and ordered punishment as purification. Practically, not every one was as much guilty as to to hanged but the idea og revolutionary justice is distinct of that of ordinary justice. According to the former, crucial elements of the proof are somewhat transposed. Revolutionary justice stand on the firm ground of the “society salvation” and is called to reveal those who present an immediate threat to that society. The justice is executed in the name of society and with a view to get that society in one piece through the hardship. Thus, everyone put to the bar was accused of conspiracy and, if not proved otherwise, executed. That concept did not need individual hearings; all the accused of conspiracy comprised a body of the enemies, so, there was no need to take them one at a time.
Revolutionary time proved to be period of dichotomy between imaginary group of those who are against the society and those who do this society comprise. The gist of that dichotomy is that society subsumes its imaginary enemies and the “enemy” is abstract. The idea is to ‘deduce’ the fact that one is antagonist out of ones ordinary conduct. The possession of the features that do affirmatively indicate belonging to the “enemy” is what is searched for inside virtually every society member
. “I am more interested by watching the prisoner. Criminals always interest me. I try to trace in the features common to humanity some expression of the crimes by which they have distinguished themselves from their kind. I have seen a good number of murderers in my day, but I have seldom seen one with such marks of Cain on his countenance as the man at the bar.” (p.275)
Thus, as this features are intrinsic in all that posses them and constitute a basis for those people indication, the “enemy” becomes a group or a body excrescent and malignant. The dichotomy of “us/them” is what delineates the two cohort of the people emphasizing the group characteristics of them both. Group is taken as a “whole and its plan, telos or destiny” are seen in every member of that group.
The artistic eye of Charles Dickens appropriated the revolutionary aesthetic to his aesthetic needs. The exposition of person’s ‘underneath’ is of no use when dealing with Revolutionary Trial. The trial is inseparable of execution and they constitute a single emotional challenge. Knowing that they are already condemned people resort to “self-dramatization”. To experience the revolutionary trial is to feel oneself doomed before that trial starts.
“The prisoners were far from insensible or unfeeling; their ways arose out of the condition of the time. Similarly, though with a subtle difference, a species of fervour or intoxication, known, without doubt, to have led some persons to brave the guillotine unnecessarily, and to die by it, was not mere boastfulness, but a wild infection of the wildly shaken public mind. In seasons of pestilence, some of us will have a secret attraction to the disease –a terrible passing inclination to die of it. And all of us have like wonders hidden in our breasts, only needing circumstances to evoke them.” (p.279)
That resort to “self-dramatization” is peculiar of the open hearings of the revolutionary times. Unrestrained power of the crowed, which might defy the judge and jury themselves is to be addressed so as to gain the support. ‘Drama setting’ is conspicuous with the Revolutionary court as well as with James Wilson’s trial. To say more, the role and weight of arguments is alike. The solid position of the defender seems to crucial in the both cases. The defender of James Wilson definitely had some effect for “he was clear and distinct in every corroborative circumstance”. Charles Darnay’s unpromising case was also settled on the account of discrete and substantiated arguments. The flow of the trial in both cases seems to run two different ways before and after the decisive evidences.
“On these few steps of his dangerous way, Charles Darnay had set his foot according to Doctor Manette’s reiterated instructions. The same cautious counsel directed every step that lay before him, and had prepared every inch of his road.” Still, something makes us perceive the ‘Drama setting’ to condition the conduct of those put to the bar. The crowd seems to have the life of its own in the court and the evidences are effective when they convince both audience and jury. The Revolutionary justice was executed in the name of the Republic, which comprised all the citizens, thus conferring them a crucial role within the court. The court seems to be but a tool of revolutionary justice. The narrative of the witnesses in “The tale of two cities” fully conveys the idea of Dramatic performance with a hint of Absurd wherein a crowd blinded with revolutionary rush is put in place to condition the people’s behavior.
“Citizen Gabelle hinted, with infinite delicacy and politeness, that in the pressure of business imposed on the Tribunal by the multitude of enemies of the Republic with which it had to deal, he had been slightly overlooked in his prison of the Abbaye–in fact, had rather passed out of the Tribunal’s patriotic remembrance–until three days ago…” (Dickens, p. 283)
The ‘Drama setting’ points toward a populace and a jury, as it is the focal point of appeal during the court performance. Jury seems inseparable of the crowd especially in “The tale of two cities”. What has effect on the crowd has the effect on jury, thus making the court hearing a performance before an audience.
Under these circumstances, to be called before the bar means almost as much as to … The trial is literary a line between life and death. To stand on that line by virtue of itself brings a whole life before persons eyes contributing to his momentarily aloofness and alienation from what goes immediately before him. “…while the prisoner at the bar stood with compressed lips, looking at the judge with his outward eyes, but with far other and different scenes presented to his mental vision; a sort of rapid recapitulation of his life”.
That withdrawal and self-absorption seems immediately to transform into frantic emotional movement. The exposure of one’s “self” is a second salient feature which characterizes the Law as Performance. The exposure is demanded by the nature of the audience. The personal writing style of Charles Dickens renders a picture even more oppressive and tragic. The omniscient public which pursues the ideas of disclosure and judgement makes omniscient narrator which takes off the roof of every house to see what’s inside (Bloom, p.89 ). The Revolutionary spirit was accorded by the Dickens disclosure manner, thus producing now renown piece of literature. What is most important is that exposure becomes violent and intrusive by the nature. Doctor Manette did not want his letter to be found and produced in such a malicious manner. But poised in the position he must go on exposing himself and his family affairs in public. To hush the roam of the crowd seems virtually impossible and further revelations may only fuel populace appetite. Once exposed, man is devoid of the privacy or condemned to death.
This transgression of public and private affiliates the trial with its immediate outcome – execution. Public execution starts on the trial and the rest of the road is also to be trotted in an unwanted company. “That exposure should remind us of the historical links between public executions and those other ritual inversions of public and private: human sacrifice and carnival.” (Bloom, p.89 )
The agitation person may feel at the public hearing is spurred by the absurdity of the performance and approach of death. “Self-dramatizing” comes to be a response to the infinite exposure of all the private in man and to implacable time driving one closer to ones tragic end.
“Suddenly she was roused, she knew not how or by what. She was conscious that all was real, that hundreds were looking at her, that true-sounding words were being extracted from her; that that figure, so bowed down, with the face concealed with both hands, was really Jem. Her face flushed scarlet, and then, paler than before. But in dread of herself, with the tremendous secret imprisoned within her, she exerted every power she had to keep in the full understanding of what was going on, of what she was asked, and of what she answered. With all her faculties preternaturally alive and sensitive, she heard the next question from the pert young barrister, who was delighted to have the examination of this witness.” (GASKELL, p.287)
Exposure of human nature like that in the time of danger or death is offensive and humiliating. Not less humiliating are those moments violated intimacy which, to crown all, are to weighed against the corroborate arguments of the accusation that bears no traces the personal involvement with the case.
“And who was he, the questioner, that he should dare so lightly to ask of her heart’s secrets? That he should dare to ask her to tell, before that multitude assembled there, what woman usually whis-
pers with blushes and tears, and many hesitations, to one ear alone?” (Dickens, p. 278)
Self- dramatization seems to be a respond to the absurd and incommensurability of the surrounding and the internal world of person. It takes form of desperate conduct to denounce the society claims upon person.
“The Tale of two cities” seems to approach quite close to the psychology of the Men in Trial. The role of crowd and the twist of the plot are highlighting the differences between this novel and “Mary Barton” but the focus on the scene of trial and preoccupation with the psychology details are peculiar to both of them.
Charles Dickens “A TALE OF TWO CITIES” BOOKS, INC. NEW YORK BOSTON, 1868 , Questia Media America, Inc. www.questia.com
Bloom, Harold. Edited and with an introduction by. A Tale of Two Cities. 1987
GASKELL, MARY BARTON LONDON BLISS SANDS & CO, 1897 Questia Media America, Inc. www.questia.com