English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Dickens
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Illustration
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Moral Values Through Characters

    Moral Values Through Characters


    In this lesson, students will explore the ways in which Dickens reveals his moral values through his characters.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.

    Carton, Stryver, and Lorry

    • Allow students opportunity to do individual thinking about the characters in the Quick Write.
    • Take a quick poll of students’ feelings about the three men. A simple show of hands in response to your questions about each ought to be sufficient. SWD: Encourage students who may still be having difficulties with using textual evidence to explain why they like that character, citing specific reasons they prefer him to the others. This will prepare them for the discussion that follows.
    • Facilitate a discussion in which students explain their feelings and thinking. Encourage use of text as evidence.
    • As time allows, transition into the question of the effect of Dickens’s style.
    • Consider preparing an example of a typical Dickensian passage to illustrate clearly what you mean by style and to focus students’ responses.
    • ELL: If you have ELLs in your class who have been tracking common words and phrases that Dickens uses, this can be a great moment for them to share what they’ve observed with their classmates.


    In these chapters, we get a closer look at three characters—Carton, Stryver, and Lorry. Before you dig into the chapters, in a Quick Write, record your impressions of these characters so far, then share your ideas with the rest of the class.

    • Which character among these three do you find yourself liking best?
    • What scenes or events support and influence your thinking?

    Open Notebook

    As you talk about the chapters, think about the ways that Dickens’s writing style contributes to your reaction.

    Stryver and Carton

    • Facilitate a conversation in response to the questions presented. This discussion is an opportunity to clarify points of plot and to analyze ideas about the characters based on what they do.
    • Consider telling the students that Dickens is well known for his hypocrites, that he often depicts characters who are frauds.
    • SWD: For students who might struggle to analyze reactions and motivations, you can provide specific pieces of text that can help them answer the questions. Work with them to identify the evidence present in the excerpts you provide.

    Work Time

    Together with your classmates, review your knowledge of Stryver and Carton so far. Respond to the following questions.

    • How does Stryver handle the news that Lucie might not be interested in his proposal? What does his response show about his personality?
    • How does Carton reveal his feelings? Summarize his comments to Lucie. What does his conversation with her show about his personality?
    • Which of these two men do you admire more? Why?

    Textual Support and Tone

    • Remind students of the definition of tone. While students may quickly observe that the scenes with Stryver are mainly comic and the scenes with Carton are mainly sentimental and a bit sad, it is important for them to see how Dickens creates this tone. SWD: If you have students who would benefit from more detailed examples and explanation, you can provide several sample quotations that illustrate the tone Dickens uses towards a different character (for example, Lucie, whose very name means light), and describe how Dickens could have made other choices to create a different tone. Then have students generalize this idea to the two men, when they have demonstrated an understanding of the process of creating tone.
    • When you set up the groups, consider assigning particular pages to each group so that the full range of the chapters is reviewed.
    • In a Whole Class Discussion, review what the students have found. Read together the funnier passages about Stryver, getting the students to enjoy the comedy that Dickens provides. Also, as you discuss the comic presentation of Stryver, point out that he is more of a caricature than Carton.
    • Students might also find the scenes with Carton overly sentimental. Consider explaining to them that the sentimental quality is typical of a Victorian novel.

    Work Time

    Join a small group as directed, then do the following.

    • Find quotations that illustrate Dickens’s attitude toward Carton and Stryver.
    • What, in the presentation of the scenes, reveals his tone ? How does Dickens do it?
    • Choose three specific quotations that illustrate Dickens’s tone toward each character.

    Share your observations, your annotations, your conclusions, and your supporting text with the class.

    Jarvis Lorry Mini-debate

    • You can use your own claim or this one: Mr. Lorry is a hypocrite. He says he is just a ‘man of business’ but he is not.
    • Designate teams by means of a quick show of hands, pro or con. Emphasize that this is an informal debate, and that group work will be brief.
    • The idea of the counterclaim is always useful, in debate as in writing. While time is a factor, encourage the groups to anticipate what the opposition will say.
    • Consider suggesting that groups assign a “counterclaim team” to focus on the rebuttal of the other group’s position.
    • Facilitate an informal debate, trying to uncover the difference between Lorry’s hypocrisy and Stryver’s. ELL: Check for understanding of the use of the word impression in this context.


    Listen as your teacher presents an argumentative claim about Lorry. As directed, join a group supporting or opposing the claim. Then answer the questions and follow the instructions.

    • Based on his actions in these recent chapters, what is your general impression of his character now?
    • What evidence supports your impression?
    • With your group, arrange the supporting textual evidence into an effective argument in response to the claim.
    • Anticipate what you expect the other group to say and briefly prepare a rebuttal, again based on evidence.
    • Designate a spokesperson or two to present your group’s argument to the rest of the class.

    When it is your turn, present your argument to the whole class.

    Book II, Chapters 14 and 15

    • As usual, remind students to read and annotate carefully. Consider checking students’ annotations to identify and support those who are struggling. Consider inviting or assigning individual students from time to time to share their annotations of a given section of text with the rest of the class.


    • Read Book II, Chapters 14 and 15 in A Tale of Two Cities .
    • Annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.