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

    What is loyalty?

    What is loyalty?


    In this lesson, students will consider the ways that Dickens continues to build suspense for his readers and discuss one of the central questions of the novel: What is loyalty?


    • 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 and small groups of mixed ability.

    The Remaining Questions

    • These are plot-heavy chapters, so, to ensure that the students have understood the main events, have them brainstorm the elements of the plot that have them wondering. You may consider reminding them that they did a similar activity earlier in the novel and point out that Dickens has continued to keep his readers guessing.
    • Review difficult aspects of the plot if necessary.
    • When students identify aspects of Dickens’s suspense, share with the class.
    • Allow their thinking to drive the conversation, but be prepared to direct them to think about the following:
      • ✓ What will happen to Darnay?
      • ✓ What is the new evidence against Darnay?
      • ✓ Will Doctor Manette start making shoes when he learns he has failed?
      • ✓ What will happen to Jerry now that he seems to have revealed he is a gravedigger?
      • ✓ What does Carton tell Barsad?
      • ✓ What sorts of spying is Barsad doing?
      • ✓ Will Madame DeFarge come after Lucie now? SWD: You can take a moment with the class to construct a brief plot outline of major events, if you think the process would benefit your students. This can be in the form of a visual map on the board, a traditional outline, or whatever other format is accessible and helpful.


    Dickens has kept his readers on edge. First Darnay is saved, then not. Dickens has us guessing, still, at much of what will happen.

    • Think about what you know and what you don’t know about characters and events at this point.
    • List the questions that you and other readers will now want answered.

    Open Notebook

    Miss Pross's Loyalty

    • Split the students up into partnerships and direct them to review the chapters,
    • Read the following passage for students to remind them of the earlier reference to Miss Pross’s brother.
      • ✓ “There never was, nor will be, but one man worthy of Ladybird,” said Miss Pross; “and that was my brother Solomon, if he hadn’t made a mistake in life.”
      • ✓ Here again: “Mr. Lorry’s inquiries into Miss Pross’s personal history had established the fact that her brother Solomon was a heartless scoundrel who had stripped her of everything she possessed, as a stake to speculate with, and had abandoned her in her poverty for evermore, with no touch of compunction.”
    • Once they have identified the different loyalties that Miss Pross exhibits, encourage them to find at least one quotation to show Pross’s loyalty in each instance.
    • If students struggle, consider prompting them to think of the following.
      • ✓ Miss Pross is loyal to her brother.
      • ✓ She is loyal to Lucie and the Manettes.
      • ✓ She is loyal to England.
    • ELL: This can be a good opportunity to check in with ELLs for understanding before they get to the climax of the story. You can monitor them as they work in pairs, or you can conduct a small discussion group.

    Work Time

    Back in Book I, when the reader first meets Miss Pross, her brother Solomon comes up in conversation with Mr. Lorry. Listen as your teacher recalls the passage.

    Miss Pross has remained loyal to this brother who has taken advantage of her, and, as you have read in these chapters, she remains fond of him. With that in mind, join a partner and do the following.

    • With your partner, review the ways in which Miss Pross is loyal in Book III, Chapters 7 and 8.
    • Find and highlight a quote to support each example.

    Miss Pross's Loyalty Share

    • As you facilitate a brief discussion of the students’ observations about Miss Pross, make sure that you discuss with them the passage, “Confound their politics,” and explain that this is from the British national anthem.
    • Facilitate a brief conversation about the way patriotism is presented in the scene in order to help set up the main investigating they will do in the lesson. ELL: Patriotism is viewed in many ways, and students from other countries may have varied experiences with politics and patriotism that will inform their contributions to the conversation. Encourage a wide variety of responses.

    Work Time

    When you and your partner have completed your investigation, rejoin the rest of the class and do the following.

    • Share with the whole class the quotations you think are important, and decide whether or not the class admires Miss Pross.
    • Is she admirable? Foolish?

    Character Loyalty Rankings

    • Circulate and make sure the groups are running efficiently, with students playing roles in the task. Assist any that need your guidance.
    • Most of the time, people would say that loyalty is a virtue. Yet loyalties get more complicated in this novel.
    • Facilitate a conversation about the loyalties of the various characters. For example, ask the students whether they find it admirable that Darnay has gone home for Gabelle. Do they admire Monsieur DeFarge for his loyalty to the Revolution?
    • Encourage the students to see the complexity of the various situations.
    • SWD: If you have students who you know are linear thinkers, you may want to remind them during this exercise that there is no one right ranking for the characters. What matters most is that they can point to evidence from the book to support their group’s ranking.

    Work Time

    Join a small group as directed, and decide on roles that each of you will play in the work: Leader, Timekeeper, Note Taker and Reporter. Then do the following.

    • Consider as many individuals as you can from two main groups: Lucie and Darnay and their extended family, and Madame and Monsieur Defarge and the Revolutionaries, and examine ways these characters have been loyal or disloyal.
    • Determine to whom or what each has exhibited loyalty or disloyalty. Record your ideas for each character on the Loyalty chart.
    • Then rank each character on a “Loyalty Scale” from 1 to 10 depending on their behavior.

    When prompted, return to the whole class and share your evaluations and your rankings.

    Book III, Chapter 9 Summary

    • So that students can more quickly find out what has happened to Darnay, allow students to skip the first half of Chapter 9.
    • Summarize for them the plot is as follows:
      • ✓ Cruncher explains to Mr. Lorry that the doctors who buy the corpses he sells are tied to Tellson’s bank, so Mr. Lorry, to protect the customers at the bank, agrees to help Jerry’s son and to help Jerry find a new job.
      • ✓ Carton talks about the meaning of life with Lorry, and Carton remembers the Biblical quotation read at his father’s funeral, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
    • As the chapters wind down, be sure to remind students not to tell one another what happens. Remind them that the fun of a suspenseful ending is reading it for oneself.
    • If there are students who wish to read the first half of the chapter and can manage the extra pages, consider facilitating a way for that to happen within the resources and environment of your classroom.


    So that you can more quickly find out what has happened to Darnay, you will skip the first half of Chapter 9.

    • Listen as your teacher summarizes those events for you. Take any notes that seem important to you.
    • Then, begin reading and annotating, starting from the paragraph in the middle of the chapter that begins, “The court was all astir . . .”

    Darnay's Fate

    • As always, remind students to read and annotate carefully. Consider asking individual students to volunteer their annotations for a specific section of text.


    • Continue to read and annotate the second section of Chapter 9, then read and annotate all of Chapter 10.
    • Annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.