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

    The Storming of The Bastille

    The Storming of The Bastille


    In this lesson, students will review the storming of the Bastille and the actions of the Revolutionaries in these chapters, paying particular attention to the ways in which Dickens represents the women who have become rebels.


    • 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 of mixed ability.
    • Determine how you will have students combine partner groups into small groups.

    Imagine the Bastille

    • Read aloud the passage of the Bastille’s storming, from “With a roar that sounded as if all the breath in France” to “furious dumb show.”
    • Pause, and then read it aloud again.
    • Direct students to the passage in the text and allot time for them to read over the language of the passage and annotate it. ELL: If appropriate for your students, pause after the first reading to have students identify any words that they might not have understood in the passage. You can define these words as a class before proceeding to the second reading to improve comprehension.


    The Bastille, as you may remember from your research, was a prison that French Revolutionaries took over because it was regarded as a symbol of government oppression.

    Close your eyes. Listen carefully as your teacher reads the description of the storming of the Bastille aloud to you twice.

    Imagine the scene as fully as you can.

    • Now read the passage over silently, and annotate the words and phrases that seem powerful or symbolic.

    Language of the Bastille Scene

    • First be sure the students have understood the basic plot of the Bastille and Foulon scenes. Point out if necessary that DeFarge has found something in the Bastille.
    • Facilitate a conversation in which the students offer their comments on the passage. Build from the student comments as much as possible, yet make sure that the conversation includes the following:
      • ✓ Mention of the onomatopoeia in the passage (Remember to define onomatopoeia for them as words that imitate the sound that they describe, such as the word crack.)
      • ✓ The choppy, frantic sentences that convey the mood
      • ✓ The references to the sea (Review the expression extended metaphor and discuss the ways in which the ocean is an apt metaphor here. You might also want to refer to the conversation with the DeFarges about the storms and earthquakes, the major elemental forces that illustrate the force of the Revolution.)
      • ✓ The attitude of the women here and words that describe their passion

    Work Time

    When you have completed annotating, rejoin the whole class and do the following.

    • Share with the class your observations about the language of the passage.
    • What words or phrases are the most powerful or symbolic?
    • What is the mood ?

    The Women

    • You may want to read the Euripides passage aloud to clarify vocabulary before setting the partners to work. It should only take students a few minutes to pick up on the savage and brutal parallels. ELL: This can be an opportunity to examine specific word choice. Revenge is usually used to mean “address an injustice.” Why would the women want revenge? Why wouldn’t they be seeking to “punish” or to “persecute”? Has the ruler transgressed in a specific way because of his lack of faith in Dionysus?

    Work Time

    The description of the women during these revolutionary scenes echoes a scene from an ancient Greek play in which a group of women, followers of Dionysus, god of chaos and destruction, seek revenge against one of the rulers because he does not worship Dionysus.

    These scenes of course are similar because they describe women who are seeking revenge against a ruler. Now join a partner as directed and do the following.

    • Read the passages in Comparing the Bacchae.
    • Find other ways in which the descriptions of the women are similar.
    • Highlight and annotate phrases that seem similar.

    Reflection on the Women

    • Give students time to work through the questions in small groups. Circulate to check on their collaboration and their progress.
    • Consider implementing the Small Group Discussion Protocol, with designated roles for each member of the small group.
    • When students return to the whole class, give each group a chance to share their ideas.
    • If necessary, facilitate a conversation about Dickens’s allusion to the Bacchae.
    • Highlight the image of Madame DeFarge and her representation as wild, even evil.
    • To facilitate personal connections, ask students to consider how they would feel in a situation in which they were the frequent sufferers of the kinds of injustice that Dickens goes to great lengths to illustrate in the novel. Does the women’s behavior make sense in this context? Are the women acting more like people, or more like a force of nature? What idea about justice is Dickens exploring here?

    Work Time

    When you and your partner have completed your analysis, join with another partner group as directed and discuss the following.

    • What is the impression that you get of the women in these scenes?
    • Why do you think that Dickens makes this allusion to the Bacchae (women followers of Dionysus)?
    • These women are not like Lucie or like the Victorian ideal. In fact, what is the image of Madame Defarge here? Point to key passages that describe her actions in these chapters. In particular, review the paragraph from Chapter 21 that begins, “In the howling universe ...”

    When your group has completed discussing the questions, rejoin the rest of the class and share your thoughts.

    Lucie Quick Write

    • Give students time to address the questions individually.
    • As needed, review the basic plot about Lucie’s life from the chapters.
    • SWD: This Quick Write is a good opportunity to check for understanding with any students who may be struggling to comprehend the reading.
    • Then facilitate a discussion of Lucie. See if students perceive her as the ideal woman, unlike the “wild” French women involved in the Revolution.
    • Discuss the narrator’s concern for her. If students struggle to determine the effect of that tone, suggest that this is Dickens’s way of making the reader “take sides.”
    • Consider generating suspense by asking the students to predict ways that the Revolution might affect Lucie.


    In a Quick Write, compare the image of the women in France to the image of Lucie in Chapter 21 by considering the following questions.

    • What has life been like for Lucie in England?
    • Why, at the end of Chapter 21, does the narrator say, “Keep these feet far out of her life?”
    • What is the impact of narrative comments like the one above?

    Open Notebook

    When you have completed your writing, rejoin the class and share your ideas.

    Book II, Chapters 23 and 24

    • 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.
    • Remind students that their vignettes are due next class. SWD: Give students with the accommodation of extra time an opportunity to submit their work to you for review with time for them to make edits and corrections.
    • If a different schedule would better suit your group, set an alternative date for the completion of the vignettes.


    • Read Book II, Chapters 23 and 24 of A Tale of Two Cities and annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.