In this lesson, students will consider their final impressions of Charles Darnay and Madame DeFarge, deciding just how good he is, and just how bad she is.
- 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 as you determine appropriate.
Task 1: Darnay's Letters From Prison
- Introduce the goals of the lesson and assign students to partners that they will work with for much of the lesson.
- Direct them to the passages about the letters, which begins with, “He wrote a long letter.”
- As they review the contents of the letters, circulate to ensure they understand the text.
Join a partner as directed, then do the following.
- Begin by reviewing the letters Charles is writing—the letters he believes are his final words to his wife, to Manette, and to Lorry.
- With your partner, make a bullet list of the things he tells to each—to Lucie, to Manette, and
Task 2: Darnay's Letters Discussion
- Encourage students to see that Darnay’s comments about Manette show concern for him.
- You might ask students to vote whether Darnay is very heroic, a little heroic, or not heroic at all. Ask how Darnay’s drugging may be part of this. Be sure they support their opinions with evidence from the novel.
Rejoin the whole class and discuss the following.
- Charles Dickens could have left out these letters entirely. What do you think the letters add to your understanding of Darnay?
- Why does Darnay have to be drugged?
- Decide together the extent to which you think Darnay is heroic. Support your opinions with evidence from the novel.
Task 3: Madame Defarge Quick Write
- Read aloud the passage in Chapter 14 from “Peace, little Vengeance …” until “Come hither, little citizen,” and facilitate a discussion of the questions posed. ELL: Check that students understand the connection between the words revenge and vengeance.
- Make sure that students see that Madame DeFarge has become an independent woman (even farther from the Victorian ideal than before). Remind them that she is after Lucie and her child in order to end the Evrémonde family line.
- If necessary, ask students to summarize Madame DeFarge’s motivation at this point. See if they see only revenge, not forgiveness or second chances.
Begin your consideration of Madame Defarge by listening as your teacher reads aloud the passage at the start of Chapter 14. Then, answer the following questions in a Quick Write to investigate the character of Madame DeFarge.
- What is her relationship with her husband now?
- Who is the Vengeance?
- Why do they begin to talk about children in these lines?
- Where is Madame Defarge at the end of this scene?
Task 4: A Scene From the Novel
- Set a clear time limit for the students to work with their partners.
- Direct students to re-form their partnerships and begin to consider the filming of the Pross-DeFarge scene.
- Circulate and make sure that students understand the plot of the exchange.
- Facilitate a discussion of the students’ filming ideas, focusing on the mood that would seem appropriate. Ask them why Dickens included the bits of comedy here when Miss Pross insults Madame DeFarge. Be sure they notice DeFarge’s cruel purpose. Note, too, Pross’s loyalty, both to England and to Lucie.
- Annotation: The Tumbrils is available. SWD: The battle scene leaves much to the imagination. Help students who struggle with inferential thinking find information before and after the battle scene that supports making inferences about what really happened.
With the same partner that you worked with earlier, turn to the confrontation between Miss Pross and Madame Defarge, starting with, “The basin fell to the ground …” and ending with, “blinded with smoke.”
Imagine that you and your partner will direct the scene for a film. Make sure that you understand the plot, then collaboratively decide and jot down your ideas for the following.
- What sort of music would you play? Exciting? Comic? Scary?
- How would you convey the misunderstanding between the two women? Would you use voice-overs? Subtitles? Speaking?
- How much would you focus on the battle? Would it be violent and long? Quick?
- What actresses might you choose to play these roles?
Share with the class the way that you would handle the scene.
Task 5: Justice for Madame Defarge?
- Facilitate a discussion about the justice in Madame DeFarge’s death.
- If there is time, ask students to reflect on Madame DeFarge’s interest in killing the child (from the point of view of a Victorian reader.)
Complete your conversation about Madame Defarge with the rest of the class.
- In your opinion, did Dickens make the right decision by having Madame Defarge die?
- Does she deserve to die? Why have her die by her own gun?
- Considering what happened to her sister, is her anger so wrong? Is her desire for revenge a crime?
Task 6: Book III, Chapter 15
- Remind students that they will be writing Responding to A Tale of Two Cities in the next lesson.
- In preparation, with the exception of the powerful final scene, they should have largely determined the three passages or scenes they wish to use for the assignment.
- Read Book III, Chapter 15 of A Tale of Two Cities and annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.
- Consider these and other recent pages in your search for resources for the reflection.