Book 2 – The Golden Thread
Chapters 1 and 2: The Old Bailey
It is now five years since Mr. Lorry brought Dr. Manette and his daughter
back to England.
Jerry Cruncher is employed as the porter and messenger for the Bank, Tellson’s. Before going to work he argues with his wife concerning her constant praying. He believes it to be superstitious and bad for his work. He takes up his usual station at the front of the Bank and is soon called upon to deliver a message. With him is his son, also called Jerry. Young Jerry wonders at the source of the iron rust, which is always on his father’s fingers.
He is required to go to the Old Bailey, which is the chief court in London
and for the whole of England. There is a trial on at present dealing with Charles Darnay who is accused of treason. When he arrives at the Old Bailey he passes the message to the doorkeeper to be
delivered to Mr. Lorry.
The courtroom is crowded, expecting a Guilty verdict, which will be carried
out immediately. It is a grizzly sentence, being drawn and quartered in public.
Lucie and Dr. Manette are in attendance as they are witnesses against
Darnay. Lucie shows compassion for Darnay and some of the spectators in the court feel sorry for him.
Dickens gives us a description of Tellson’s Bank, being primarily involved
in the business of death.
He describes the building as dark, ugly and cramped, full of a musty odor arising from the shelves of old wooden drawers which keep money, documents and valuables that are placed in Tellson’s care.
Three-quarters of the laws in England carry the death penalty and Tellson’s
literally send people to their deaths, the Bank identifies forgers, counterfeiters and debtors who eventually go to their graves under the harsh Death Penalty.
Jerry Cruncher serves as the messenger of the Bank. He, like many
other characters in the book, appears to have a secret. He clearly has a guilty conscience remonstrating with his wife over her constant praying and his son, young Jerry, is also interested in his father’s
rusty fingers and muddy boots.
Dickens takes this opportunity to condemn the British Legal System
symbolizing the Old Bailey as the center of its corruption.
If Charles Darnay is found guilty of Treason, he will face a gruesome death
being drawn, half-hanged and disemboweled whilst still alive, beheaded and then cut into pieces.
The court is full of the ghoulish public there to revel in this bloodthirsty
Dickens is to show repeatedly that crowds bring out the basest nature in
people and that they possess an unstoppable, manic power. It is interesting to note that the sight of Lucie is able to bring out compassion for the prisoner by the crowd, even although this is only temporary.