The Big Reveal: Analyzing Dr. Manette's Letter

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SWBAT analyze complex characters and the authors use of such characters to develop multilayer plot lines by reading and discussing book three, chapter ten of A Tale of Two Cities.

Big Idea

Who is Solomon Pross? How can his big reveal help us see understand to Dickens' rhetorical purpose?

Mini-investigation: Who is Solomon Pross?

20 minutes

In preparation for tomorrow's investigations of Dickens' plot structure and how he has been building tension and mystery in this section of the novel (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5), we will spend the first bit of class reviewing the big reveal from book three, chapter eight.

Solomon Pross, aka John Barsad, has been spying on the French government and Dickens will use him as a key player in the final resolution of the plot. His character development has been minimal, but the characters who interact with him are all significant parts of the plot (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3).

I will put the names of these characters on the board and ask the students to trace their connections using their novels and the help of their shoulder partners:

  • Solomon Pross
  • Miss Pross
  • Jerry Cruncher
  • Sydney Carton
  • John Barsad
  • The Defarges

I will collect these papers as an informal check of their comprehension.

Whole Class Reading and Discussion: Book 3, Chapter 10

30 minutes

In place of silent reading today, we will listen to book three, chapter ten. I will use an audiobook recording from our library. If you do not have access to something like this, there are multiple online audio recordings available as well (but learn from my mistakes and preview them in advance. There is nothing worse than a lame French accent for 30 minutes of class!).

While we are reading/listening, my main goal is for students to comprehend what they are hearing (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.10). To help them with this, I am going to recommend that they write down any surprising reveals. They will be able to use these notes for the activity we are doing in class tomorrow. I may point a few out, but really I am hoping that they will get at least these big clues as they listen:

  • The nature of the Everemonde brothers
  • The connection between Dr. Manette and the Marquis
  • The connection between Dr. Manette and Ernest Defarge
  • The poor treatment of the peasants prior to the French Revolution
  • The identity of the people who threw Dr. Manette in prison for 18 years

I am not going to point these things out, but I will point out that Dr. Manette says, at multiple points in the chapter, that he is of sound mind and body while he is writing the letter. I plan to mention this tomorrow when we talk about evidence and what is valid vs. not valid in Charles Darnay's case at the end of the novel.

Wrap and Next Steps

5 minutes

To finish class today, I'm going to try something that I'm hoping to do over the rest of this semester, mainly biweekly sentence writing practice. I will have the students review any notes they wrote down about the chapter we worked with today and write me a really well-constructed sentence that includes the words purpose and letter. My goal with this is to have students practice the skill of writing a really great sentence but also give me a sense of how well they understand what we read and talked about today. 

I will collect these sentences as exit slips and use them to determine what kind of language/grammar work we need to work on in daily, mini-writing tasks moving forward so that the students can demonstrate their command of the English language in a variety of ways over the course of this term (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1).