- English Language Arts, Reading Literature
- Material Type:
- Lesson Plan
- High School
- Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities
How is power abused?
In this lesson, students will discuss what Dickens’s use of Manette’s point of view adds to the novel, and will discuss another central question: How is power abused?
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
- Create partner groups as you determine appropriate.
Doctor Manette's Letter
- Facilitate a brief discussion about the image conjured up by the letter.
- Consider introducing the idea of old adventure stories and messages in bottles to suggest that Dickens is provoking the readers’ imaginations by tying into older story models.
- Remind students of the author’s use of caricature to create a feeling in the reader that is not technically “realistic” but is still powerful. You can ask, “In what other ways does Dickens exaggerate or dramatize things to create an effect in the reader?”
- ELL: Ask students to consider how and when exaggeration can be important for effective writing in English, and when it would be appropriate (a novel, a poem) and when it would be inappropriate (a business letter, a report).
Begin by considering the letter itself and discuss the following questions with the class.
- What do you imagine the letter that was hidden in the Bastille to look like, especially after so much time?
- How do you imagine Doctor Manette wrote the letter?
- Do you think it is realistic that Doctor Manette could have written so long a letter in that fashion?
- Does that matter?
Changes in Narrative Point of View
- Give students time to process the prompts with their partners. Circulate to check each group’s progress.
- When the class reassembles, field student responses to the question about Manette’s limited knowledge. They are likely to be able to notice the following:
- ✓ He didn’t know how the boy was hurt or what was wrong with the girl when he arrived.
- ✓ It is not clear whom to trust.
- ✓ He doesn’t know how cruel the brothers may have been. SWD: This section requires quite a bit of inference on the part of the reader. Students who struggle with inferential thinking will need to have the process of “reading between the lines” clearly laid out for them. Explain any euphemisms or references to unmentioned actions that Dickens is using to mask explicit unpleasantness.
- Be sure to read aloud and discuss with them a few passages to illustrate his point of view, such as:
- ✓ “I saw the armorial bearing of a Noble, and the letter E.” (The reader wonders if the “E” is Evrémond and doesn’t learn until later in the Chapter.)
- ✓ “To distinguish the brothers I will call them the elder and the younger.” (The reader continually wonders who the brothers are, if one is the uncle, or one is the father.)
- ✓ “I do not address her brother?” (Manette has no understanding of the social class relations at first.)
Most of the novel is told by a Third Person Omniscient Narrator—a point of view that knows everything that happens in the story. Chapter 10 is told, almost entirely, from Doctor Manette’s point of view. This chapter, then, is mainly told from a First Person Narrator point of view.
In some ways, Manette’s point of view makes it difficult to understand what is going on in the story. Join a partner as directed and discuss the following.
- What are some things that Doctor Manette does not know when he is brought to the home of the Marquis?
- Find examples that show the ways his lack of information adds mystery and suspense.
Share your ideas with the class.
Your Narrative Writing
- As you wish, encourage students to choose the writing option that will best help them learn.
- Review the expectations and components of narrative writing, if necessary.
- Assign each of the characters on the list to different students, and ask them to write in a set, short, amount of time. Explain that the goal is to help them “fill in the blanks” and see the other perspectives of the story.
- Try to have the class divided more or less evenly among the three groups so that you can “jigsaw” them later.
- This short exercise can be used to help them review the complications of the plot and to help them understand further the various perspectives of social class.
- SWD: For students who may have difficulties with this kind of sustained narrative writing, you can allow them to demonstrate understanding using other methods. For example, they can record themselves speaking as one of the characters, prepare an “interview” for a character by listing appropriate questions, or create a visual representation of their analysis.
Making reference to Chapter 10 if you need to review the plot, create a narrative from the point of view of one of the following as assigned by your teacher.
- The older brother discussing the decision to call the doctor and to then put the doctor in prison.
- The wife of the older brother explaining what she knows about the two peasant girls.
- The sister of the dying peasant girl, explaining how and why she was taken away.
You Have A Choice
First, determine how you will approach the work. You can choose to work independently; work with a partner; work with a group; or confer with the teacher.
Your Narrative Share
- Jigsaw the groups and direct the students to share what they have written and understood.
- Some may prefer to summarize the ideas from their writing rather than read directly.
- ELL: This can be a good opportunity to ask students who need extra support to submit their writing to you check for understanding and monitor writing skills.
Join a new group as directed and do the following.
- Share your narratives with your group.
- Help each other, as necessary, to understand the events of the chapters.
Book III, Chapters 11 and 12
- Encourage students to think about the complications of plot and point of view as they annotate.
- Read Book III, Chapters 11 and 12 of A Tale of Two Cities and annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.