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Activity Overview


As The Prince and the Pauper follows the stories of its two separate protagonists, it makes use of parallel plots. Twain alternates the narration between Tom Canty and Edward Tudor stories, bringing them together two times: when they first switch identities and when they reunite and return to their proper roles. To help students trace the structure of this novel, use a storyboard to create a visual of the parallel stories and their points of overlap. Copy the example below as a template, or build your own. To create or alter this storyboard, start with a T-chart and use the white square shape as an overlay to cover the separate boxes and merge them into one as necessary. The same merging can be done for the headings and text boxes using Textables.


The Prince and the Pauper Parallel Plots Example

Tom's StoryEdward's Story

Tom lives with his family in Offal Court and gets through his days begging for food and trying to avoid beatings from his father and grandmother.

Prince Edward lives in the royal palace and enjoys a luxurious life of good food, quality education, obedient servants, and adoring subjects.

Tom and Prince Edward meet at the palace after the prince saves Tom from an angry guard. After discussing their different lives, the two exchange clothes for fun and discover that they look exactly alike. When the prince rushes out to scold the guards in Tom's rags, he is not allowed back in and the switch becomes permanent.

At first, Tom struggles to adjust to the grandeur and ritual of palace life, but he learns quickly and soon comes to enjoy the privileges of the palace.

Edward is captured by his "father" John Canty, and he is forced to join a band of thieves and ruffians after Canty murders a priest.

King Henry VIII dies, and it seems that Tom will become the new king. On coronation day, however, Tom sees his mother and regrets his new royal life.

After Miles Hendon helps Edward escape from the outlaws and a murderous hermit, the two are thrown into prison by Hendon's evil brother Hugh. They are released just in time to head to London for the coronation.

Tom and Edward meet again in the cathedral on Coronation Day. Both boys are eager to switch places again. Eventually, they convince the nobles that Edward is the true king, and the kingdom is set to rights again. Tom and Edward remain friends until Edward's death.


Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 6-8

Difficulty Level 5 (Advanced / Mastery)

Type of Assignment Individual, Partner, or Group

Type of Activity: Parallel Plot and Nonlinear Narrative

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/3] Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/6/5] Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/7/3] Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot)
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/7/5] Analyze how a drama’s or poem’s form or structure (e.g., soliloquy, sonnet) contributes to its meaning
  • [ELA-Literacy/RL/8/3] Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision


Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)



Student Instructions

Identify the parallels between the two different plots in The Prince and the Pauper .

  1. Use the template provided by your teacher.
  2. In the left column, describe the plot of Tom's story.
  3. In the right column, describe the plot of Edward's story.
  4. Illustrate each scene with appropriate characters, scenes, and items.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.


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