A Tale of Two Cities

This teaching guide includes a brief overview of A Tale of Two Cities followed by teaching ideas to be used before, during, and after reading the novel by Charles Dickens.
Teaching Strategies:
Grades:
9 |
10 |
11 |
Updated on: December 8, 2000
Page 2 of 4
BEFORE READING THE NOVEL
Dicken's The Tale of Two Cities

Before the actual reading of the novel, it is helpful to make the students aware of the many themes explored in this work as well as the historical events that inspired its writing. The following activities are designed to get students actively involved in their reading by encouraging them to think about key issues. These activities can be done by the class as a whole, by small groups, or as individual assignments.

Theme
1. The positive or negative nature of revenge is one of the novel's important themes. The following questions will help students to explore this theme: · Is revenge ever justified? Is so, under what circumstances?

· How far would you go to obtain revenge on someone or some group who destroyed your family?
· Can you achieve justice through revenge?
· What is justice?
· How does our society treat those who achieve revenge?

2. How an individual's character is developed or destroyed in a crisis is another major theme. The following activity will help students explore this theme: Have students generate a list of people in real life or literature who developed character in crisis. Have them choose one of these individuals and write a short essay on how this person responded to the crisis.

3. Duty versus desire is an important theme that can be explored by having students answer the following questions:

· When, if ever, should desire be placed before duty?
· When have you ever placed desire before duty? What was the result of this decision?
· Who do we expect to place duty before desire? Why? What happens if they do not do so?

4. Corruption in the ruling class is also a major theme in the novel. The following activity will help students explore this theme:

· Have students bring in articles from current newspapers or magazines dealing with corruption in individuals and institutions that are responsible for administering government policy. Have students discuss the effect this has on common people and what the long term consequences would be if this practice became the norm.

5. Honor versus dishonor is another theme. The following activity helps focus attention on this issue: Have students generate a list of qualities that they believe characterize honorable behavior. Then have students bring in articles from current magazines that describe honorable people or behavior. After sharing and discussing these articles, have students answer the following questions:

· How are characteristics of honor established, and who establishes them?
· How does honorable behavior differ from group to group?
· Who, if anyone, do we expect to be honorable? Employers? Family? Politicians? Lawyers? Business-people?

The French Revolution
As a short research project, have students study the French Revolution. Have different groups look at the following:

· The conditions that led to the Revolution.
· The types of government France had before and after the Revolution.
· Why the French still celebrate Bastille Day.
· Using the "Afterword" in the Signet Classic edition of A Tale of Two Cities as a starting point, have students find out what effect the French Revolution had on America, England, and the world.
· Have students research what other important world events were happening at the same time as the French Revolution.

England During Dickens's Time

Using the "Afterword" in the Signet Classic edition of A Tale of Two Cities as a starting point, have students research what was happening in England during Dickens's life and what influence the events of his own time had on his decision to write this particular novel.

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