Chris Adcock
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • French Revolution
  • Grade 11 ELA
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Character Exploration

    Character Exploration


    In this lesson, you will consider Lucie’s situation as a single woman in the 18th Century. As you think about her options, you will explore further the characters of Carton, Darnay, and Stryver.

    In this lesson, students will consider Lucie’s situation as a single woman in the 18th Century. As students think about her options, they will explore further the characters of Carton, Darnay, and Stryver.


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

    The Bachelorette, 1780s-Style

    • Facilitate a brief discussion about marriage and introduce the idea of playing “The Dating Game.” You might want to look for clips of the television show on the Internet if you are unfamiliar with the program.
    • In “The Dating Game,” the bachelorette asks questions of the bachelors, who are numbered one, two, and three, and then she chooses the one she will date.
    • Since the bachelorette interviews them from behind a panel, she can ask about physical appearance because she cannot see them as she asks.
    • Ask students to consider the importance of appearance in Dickens’s novel. In some works, outside appearance hides inner qualities; does Dickens create characters whose appearance is consistent with their characters, or does he use appearance to hide inner character?
    • Also, the theme song from the actual television show can be fun to play if you can find it.
    • Divide the students into groups and set a time limit for them to prepare their responses and questions. Explain to the groups that they will have to use a quotation with most of the answers, or questions, they offer.
    • Be sure to model at least one sample question and response: Lucie might ask, “Would you be a good provider, Bachelor Number One?” Stryver would reply, “Indeed, I am ‘shouldering my way’ in the world.”
    • SWD: You can model more potential questions for students who may have difficulties determining the types of questions that are appropriate for the game in a classroom setting. Review as many examples as necessary to get everyone on the same page.
    • Decide whether you will allow various students to ask and answer the questions or will have a spokesman for each character. Let the students know how you will conduct the actual Role Play so that they can be prepared.
    • Also, students may want to know whether they can respond to Lucie’s questions with comments against the other bachelors. This is less productive, but you might allow them to do this for the final questions of the game. ELL: Point out that the name “Stryver” sounds like “striver,” meaning one who strives. You can ask, “Is the character in the novel ambitious? Is ambition desirable?”


    In a retro-themed TV game show, explore the following questions: What would a woman in the days of the French Revolution be looking for in a husband? What, for her, would make a good marriage?

    As directed, join a small group. Your group will represent either Darnay, Carton, Stryver, or Lucie in your class’s version of “The Dating Game,” a show that pre-dated the familiar Bachelor/Bachelorette series.

    • The three male characters are the bachelors, and if you are assigned to one of them, decide which member of your group will become your bachelor. Then, find quotations that support reasons that Lucie should marry your character. You are going to have to convince her that your bachelor will make a great husband.
    • If you are in the Lucie group, generate questions that you might ask of the bachelors. Draw quotations from Victorian Ideas About Gender.

    Open Notebook

    In “The Dating Game,” the bachelorette (Lucie, in this case) can ask straightforward questions, such as, “What do you look like?”  and can ask creative questions, such as, “Where might you take me on our first date?”

    The Dating Game Role Play

    • As the students ask and answer questions, keep some brief notes for them, a column about each bachelor, to help students stay focused.
    • After the students have asked and answered a fair number of questions, give the Lucie group the opportunity to “huddle” and decide which bachelor they will choose.
    • Once they announce their decision, make sure they cite reasons from the book and Victorian Ideas About Gender to support their thinking.

    Work Time

    • Follow your teacher’s instructions to participate in the Dating Game role play.

    Other Perspectives

    • If necessary, begin with a brief conversation about the perspectives of a father and a writer.
    • For the Quick Write, encourage students to think about the impact of the novel if Lucie marries Stryver—or Carton—or Darnay. Would it be tragic if she married Stryver? What would the point of the story be if she married Carton, for example?
    • SWD: If students struggle to see various perspectives, you can provide quotations that illustrate the perspectives and help students recognize evidence of their differences.
    • Let the Quick Write allow you to see how individuals are connecting with characters, conflicts, and plot direction.
    • If you choose, you could also invite student feedback about the choice “Lucie” made during class.


    When the game is concluded, change perspectives and in a Quick Write, answer the following questions.

    • Which bachelor would Doctor Manette want Lucie to marry? Why?
    • Which bachelor do you think Dickens would choose for Lucie? Why?

    Open Notebook

    Submit your writing to your teacher.

    Book II, Chapters 12 and 13

    • As usual, remind students to read and annotate carefully.
    • At this point, students might feel more comfortable with the language, but continue to review annotations to understand students’ need for support around the reading.
    • ELL: Personal reaction annotations for those learning English may include comments about their struggles with the reading itself.


    • Read Book II, Chapters 12 and 13 of A Tale of Two Cities .
    • Annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.