Oct 10

A Modern Tale of Two Cities

This morning, my colleague Jessica asked for some resources regarding A Tale of Two Cities. One of her teachers will be reading the book with her students this semester, and wanted some ideas for helping her classes develop a context for the book since many of the students are unfamiliar with the French Revolution. Additionally, the teacher wanted to focus some time on the theme of income inequality.

I immediately started to think about some of the interactive income inequality maps I’ve seen in the past few years. These tools break income levels down to the state and county level, and sometimes even to a block by block basis:

Census Explorer

Image Links to Census Explorer Interactive Map

Here are several of these resources:

I thought the following assignment prompt might provide students with an interesting context for a creative writing assignment (since this is English class after all!) and provide the students with a little context to work with when reading and discussing A Tale of Two Cities. However, this activity does not focus on historical context and background of the French Revolution.

Prompt For Students:

“Tell the story of two individuals who live in close proximity to each other but have very different lives and upbringings. Use the income maps to narrow your search to specific counties, blocks, and/or communities that interest you (maybe focus on the Richmond area?). After finding two areas that contrast with each other, use the Google Streetview tool within Google Tour Builder to help tell your story.”

Students could focus their story around the following questions and have a discussion about the following after viewing several of their classmates stories:

  • How did your characters life stories depend on their geographic location/community?
  • How does an individual’s community effect his/her life and/or opportunities?
  • Imagine what would happen if your two characters interacted:
    • In what circumstances would these individuals possibly interact?
    • What would this interaction look like?
    • How would your character’s different communities and/or geographic locations shape this interaction?

This topic also got me thinking about The Wire. Although David Simon doesn’t like the comparison, both the Wire and A Tale of Two Cities focus on social class issues and the juxtaposition of various communities within the same geographic area.

And now Season 1 of The Wire is at the top of my Netflix queue…

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