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

    Character and Caricature

    Character and Caricature


    In this lesson, you will consider the relationship between character and caricature, and discuss the ways that Dickens presents his characters—whether realistically or as exaggerations—and begin to explore the reasons he might have had for presenting his characters in this way.

    In this lesson, students will consider the relationship between character and caricature, discuss the ways that Dickens presents his characters— whether realistically or as exaggerations—and begin to explore the reasons he might have had for presenting his characters in this way.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Create small groups of mixed ability.
    • Select passages from the novel to illustrate Victorian ideas about gender.

    Character and Caricature

    • Define caricature for the students. Use the political cartoon to explain that a caricature is a characterization with some aspects exaggerated for effect.
    • ELL: Help students understand the differences between caricatures andstereotypes , words with similar but important differences in meaning.
    • After students have had a chance to look at and respond to the cartoon, explain that Dickens often gives his characters defining characteristics to help the readers recognize them from one installment of the serial to the next.
    • Invite them to name characters they have already met in the novel that seem in some way to represent single qualities, or to be caricatures.


    Look at the cartoon.

    • Jot down your impressions of the image.
    • What seems real and what seems exaggerated?

    Open Notebook

    Share your impressions with the rest of the class.

    Character Analysis

    • Break the students into small groups as you have determined.
    • Make sure students know how to use the organizer.
    • Allot a time frame for the students to fill in the organizer using short quotations from the text as evidence.
    • Consider reading some of the descriptive passages in full length with the students to ensure comprehension.
    • As you move around to observe the groups, if you discover that many have similar questions, consider taking time to clarify for the whole class.
    • Have groups pick an individual to present their work, or consider having each student present a single character. If time is short, only have groups share ideas that haven’t already been said.
    • SWD: Make sure students know what adjectives are, and help them identify possible adjectives if necessary.

    Work Time

    Break into small groups as directed. Watch closely as your teacher demonstrates use of the A Tale of Two Cities Character Analysis organizer. Then collaboratively do the following.

    • Create your own A Tale of Two Cities Character Analysis organizer.
    • Using the Character Analysis organizer, map out the key characteristics of Lucie, Lorry, and the red-haired woman (whose name you will soon learn is Miss Pross).
    • Mark the sections that seem to you to be exaggerated.
    • In the row marked “adjectives” write in the words that you would use to describe these characters.
    • Base your decisions on text and be ready to cite the sources of your ideas.

    Choose one member of your group to present your work.

    Character Analysis Share

    • After the groups have completed the chart, bring them back together and review each of the characters with them, having each spokesperson present the group’s ideas.
    • Once the presentations are complete, allow some time for discussion of the ideas presented, and identify any areas of confusion or disagreement that need attention. This should lead naturally into the ranking activity in the next task.
    • This might also be a good time to ask students for their first impressions of the characters and to answer plot questions.

    Work Time

    • Listen as your designated reporter shares your group’s observations about the characters with the class.
    • Listen as other groups present, and jot down any significant differences in their ideas that you find interesting.

    Open Notebook

    If there are differences of interpretation to resolve, discuss them with your classmates.

    Rank Characters

    • ​Allow students some time to work independently ranking the characters’ realism.
    • Use whatever means is available to you to display the tally and the final “vote.” There may not be a great difference of opinion here, but explore whatever differences do arise and inquire about the reasons, based on text, that inspired those thoughts.
    • If you choose, you can then ask about Jerry Cruncher, too. Where would they rank him and why? Ask students to ground these ideas in text.
    • Encourage students to keep in mind the notion of caricature as they meet each person in the novel. You can also ask students to speculate on the author’s intent in creating these caricatures. Are these important characters, or are they more likely to be minor characters?
    • Consider inviting students to use the additional row in the chart for Jerry, or for some character they meet subsequently.
    • SWD: You can allow students who may have difficulties with the organization that this task requires to work with a partner.

    Work Time

    Now that you have had a chance to consider three characters from the early section of the novel (Lucie, Lorry, and Miss Pross) on your own, rank those characters according to how realistic they seem.

    • Rank the characters as more or less realistic.
    • Which character in the novel seems the most like a real person?
    • Who seems the most like a cartoon?

    Open Notebook

    Share your rankings with the rest of the class.

    Character Analysis

    Victorian Gender Roles

    • Introduce the notion of Victorian gender roles and how they were defined.
    • Explain that the lives of men and women were distinct during the Victorian age. In fact, writers have called their worlds “separate spheres”—with men out in the world of action, and women at home. Taken from the title of a poem by Coventry Patmore, the term “The Angel of the House” is now used to refer to the Victorian ideal of the proper woman.
    • Read with the class the quotations, helping them to understand the role of women as passive, devoted, and moral.
    • After students have had an opportunity to consider and write about these concepts individually, facilitate a discussion of the ways in which Lucie represents an “Angel of the House.” Likewise, invite students to explore the way that Lorry embodies the sphere of work, and consider how other characters may already demonstrate these specific gender roles.

    Work Time

    Even as Dickens exaggerates aspects of characters, he also writes in a way that reflects the thinking of his time. Listen as your teacher outlines some aspects of gender roles in Dickens’s time.

    Look at the document titled “Victorian Ideas About Gender,” and then do the following.

    • Using the quotations in the document, make a list of the qualities that women were supposed to have.
    • How do the gender roles described in the document apply to the characters you have read about so far?

    As a class, discuss the ways Lucie embodies the idea of an “Angel of the House.” Consider the way other characters may also reflect Victorian ideas about gender.

    Gender Roles Then and Now

    • Provide enough time for students to formulate in writing some independent ideas about the question of gender, then facilitate a conversation about the questions.
    • There isn’t time to get into a full discussion of gender roles, so try to keep the conversation grounded in relationship to the novel. Encourage students to cite text when making claims about gender roles, or anything else.
    • Urge students to keep the idea of gender roles in mind as they continue to read.
    • ELL: Cultural differences may come up during this discussion; remind students to respect cultural differences and differences of opinion while referring to the text or other textual evidence (for example, statistics about women in the workplace from a relevant website) whenever possible.


    Now that you have had a chance to think about gender roles in the context of Dickens’s novel, in a Quick Write, reflect on your own time by addressing the following questions.

    • How much of the world of the novel seems similar to our world today?
    • How do the roles of women or men today differ from Dickens’s day?

    Open Notebook

    Share your observations with the rest of the class.

    Book I, Chapters 5 and 6

    • Remind students to read and annotate carefully.
    • You might consider asking for a certain number of annotations per chapter, such as five or six, to help students gauge your expectations.
    • Consider asking individual students to share their annotations with the class after each reading. Your expectations may encourage greater care in preparation, and the modeling may help students who struggle get a broader sampling of ways to annotate.


    • Read Book I, Chapters 5 and 6.
    • Annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.