all at once become so extremely wicked
The doltishness with which Ernest speaks cannot obscure the moral question implicit here. The reliance on simplistic moral absolutes will extend outward from Ernest to involve his father (I:6:37), who has been established from the beginnings of Victor's narrative as a citizen of consequence, and he will then in the next chapter be joined by other men of consequence in Geneva, from the Church to the magistracy, in a miscarriage of justice. Victor's intuition of the murderer, as well as his own intellectual research beyond conventional limitations, isolates him from the other male upholders of establishment values. This does give Victor a certain moral authority not apparent before, but it is heavily shadowed by his silence as the travesty of Justine's trial unfolds. Only Elizabeth, like Justine a woman and without effectual power, is able through sheer human sympathy to "judge" aright in this case.