English Language Arts
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Argument
  • Exhibits
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Museums
  • Technology
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Theme Analysis

    Theme Analysis


    In this lesson, students will think about the theme of sacrifice in the novel, and reflect on the novel’s final impact on themselves as readers. They will also pay careful attention to the famous lines that conclude the novel.


    • 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.

    Conclusion Quick Write

    • It is possible that students will be moved by the final scene, as readers have been for years. It is also possible they will find the ending “cheesy” because it is so overtly sentimental.
    • Give students a brief amount of time to write their reactions. Then, without making any specific response “correct,” allow them to share their responses.
    • Keep in mind that students have the opportunity at the end of the lesson to write more about the novel. SWD: Capture powerful words from student responses on the board to create a word bank for the later writing response at the end of the lesson to support visual learners.


    In a Quick Write, jot down your thoughts and feelings about the end of the novel.

    Open Notebook

    Other Sacrifices

    • Ask the students to review in small groups what they know about the seamstress.
    • Allow students time to process the questions in their groups.
    • Consider if you have time prior to the reflection writing for a Whole Group Share.

    Work Time

    Carton is making the ultimate sacrifice. Yet consider the sacrifices others make in these final chapters. In a small group, discuss the following.

    • What is the sacrifice of the seamstress?
    • Turn to the passage in which she talks about the revolution from, "Brave and generous friend,” to “Is the moment come?”
    • Do you find her comments heroic or foolish? Do you think Dickens believes she is sacrificing for the future of France?
    • What is Miss Pross’s sacrifice?
    • Does she seem at all foolish? How heroic is she?

    Carton's Vision of the Future

    • As the students work through the questions provided, make sure they understand the basic plot elements of the ending.
    • Consider asking if there are questions that need to be addressed by the whole class before continuing the small group work.
    • If you have already heard much reaction to Carton’s sacrifice, and if you want to leave more time for the written reflection, consider omitting the Whole Class Discussion.
    • If students have not discovered it on their own, point out the final image of rebirth—Carton is “reborn” in the image of the young man, and Carton is also “reborn” because his departure to a new “place”—heaven.
    • If students are not familiar with the biblical quotation just before Carton’s prophecy, which was also used in Book III, Chapter 9 (“The Game Made”), provide them with the necessary background, and ask them to make sense of the allusion.
    • You may consider letting them know that the literary term for an innocent person who sacrifices him or herself is a Christ Figure. ELL: Students from non-Christian traditions may need help researching the idea of redemptive sacrifice that is the main tenet of the Christ Figure imagery. Provide instruction or materials as necessary.

    Work Time

    Stay in your small group and turn to the vision that Carton has for the future in the final moments of the novel, from “I see Barsad” until the end. Discuss these questions.

    • What is the future Carton sees for the Revolutionaries? For France?
    • What is the future he sees for Lucie and her family? Who is the child with Carton’s name? What is the “better place”?
    • What is the impact on the novel of this “flash forward” into the future? Do you think it is effective?

    Once you have considered all of these questions, decide as a class: is Carton a hero? Should he, perhaps, have allowed Darnay to die and tried to marry Lucie?

    Reflection on the Novel

    • Review the assignment and make sure the students understand your expectations.
    • Responding to A Tale of Two Cities is designed to be an in-class writing assignment. However, if appropriate for your class, allow students to complete the writing for homework if they cannot finish it within class time.
    • As students respond to the Guiding Questions for the final time, remind them to consider what they knew at the beginning of the unit in comparison to now.


    • Follow the directions for Responding to A Tale of Two Cities for your final response to the novel.

    Finally, answer the Guiding Questions using what you've learned during the unit to inform your answers.

    • How does good storytelling affect the reader, and how can a good story promote change in the world?
    • What was the Victorian view of gender roles?
    • How can power be abused?
    • What is loyalty ? What are the limits of loyalty?

    Open Notebook

    Submit your responses to your teacher.