A Tale of Two Cities: Lesson 1

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 11368

That title sounds rather innocuous, but the book is complex and deep. Never fear! Work through it with videos and worksheets, and get a glimpse of history, politics, and intrigue in Europe!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Would you rather live in London or Paris?

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  • Do you think this answer might change if you look back in history at both cities?

Charles Dickens is considered one of Great Britain's most prolific and famous writers.

Charles Dickens

Working in the nineteenth century, Dickens captures the changing landscape of England during the Industrial Revolution, as Europe and North America become less agrarian and more industrialized.

His novels primarily focus on the middle and lower classes, who often experience economic hardship as they struggle to survive in cities and towns that become increasingly impersonal — and even hostile — towards people on the fringes of society.

Although Dickens wrote a total of 15 novels (only 14 of which he finished), A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens's only historical novel. Set in the eighteenth century prior to and during the French Revolution, Dickens uses the two cities of London and Paris as the backdrop for the plot of the novel.

The book, like many longer novels of the nineteenth century, was divided into multiple books. Authors divided novels into several books — usually two or three — because they were more affordable to print and, therefore, cheaper to buy, and parts of the novel could be printed as they were written.

The novel opens with a mysterious trip from London to Paris. As you read the first part of the novel, see if you can figure out what Mr. Jarvis Lorry's mysterious message, "Recalled to life," means before the answer is revealed!

First, watch the video below to get an overview of the novel's structure. As you watch, think about which city will be more influential on the plot of the novel.

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You are now ready to read the first section of the novel. For this lesson, read Chapters 1-6 in "Book the First" and Chapters 1-3 of "Book the Second."

If you need access, you can read A Tale of Two Cities online.

Now that you've finished reading this section of the novel, consider the following question.

  • Did you think Dr. Manette would recover in the five years that elapse between "Book the First" and "Book the Second"?

Move on to the Got It? section to check your knowledge of the reading.

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