The Prince and the Pauper Themes, Symbols, and Motifs

This Storyboard That activity is part of the lesson plans for The Prince and the Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper Themes, Motifs, and Symbols


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Activity Overview

Themes, symbols, and motifs come alive when you use a storyboard. In this activity, students will identify themes and symbols from the novel, and support their choices with details from the text.

The Prince and the Pauper Themes

The Triumph of Justice

The Prince and the Pauper ends happily, largely because justice is achieved. Edward is restored to his rightful throne and those who helped him are rewarded, while those who hurt him are punished. Miles Hendon is named an earl and Tom Canty is made a Ward of the King. Hugh Hendon is thrown in prison and John Canty becomes a marked man. Edward even sees to it that kind-hearted “criminals” he met receive mercy and live happily ever after.

The Innocence of Children

While most of the adults in the book are hardened to the violence around them, the child protagonists are not. Though the adults, both royal and peasant, accept and dole out cruel punishments as part of life, both Tom and Edward step up and put a stop to it. They are horrified by some of the tortures they have never before witnessed. Tom is astounded that any government could enforce execution by boiling in oil. Edward is shocked by the heavy punishments commoners receive for small crimes. Both boys use their power to show mercy and alter English law to treat people more humanely.

The Prince and the Pauper Motifs & Symbols

The Great Seal

The Great Seal is a symbol of the king's authority. It was used as a mold for wax seals on documents approved by the king. The true seal indicated that the document was genuine. In The Prince and the Pauper, the seal becomes the object through which Edward proves he is king. By identifying the seal and its location, he proves his identity is genuine.


Clothing is an important motif throughout The Prince and the Pauper. Characters’ clothing symbolize their status, and society judges them accordingly. So important are clothes that the characters cannot seem to see past them. Once Tom and Edward switch their apparel, no amount of protesting convinces their families that they are not who they appear to be. In rags, Edward is considered disposable and is mocked, beaten, and thrown in prison. In royal finery, Tom is treated with deference and adulation. In the end, Twain’s focus on clothing suggests a powerful argument in favor of democracy. By switching roles, Tom and Edward prove that there is nothing inherently royal in the Tudor line. In the guise of Edward, Tom succeeds perfectly well at ruling England. Clearly, neither clothing nor social class are true measures of a person’s ability.


The Prince and the Pauper is filled with violence. From domestic to state-sponsored, violence permeates the lives of the English. Throughout the story, we see characters beaten and whipped, hear of men who were branded and lost ears, witness two women burnt at the stake, and learn of criminals sentenced to be beheaded and boiled in oil. Twain emphasizes the brutality of sixteenth-century England in order to cast Edward in a sympathetic light and highlight his gentleness as he tries to change England’s oppressive laws.

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Template and Class Instructions

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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that identifies recurring themes in The Prince and the Pauper. Illustrate instances of each theme and write a short description below each cell.

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. Identify the theme(s), symbols(s), or motif(s) from The Prince and the Pauper you wish to include and replace the "THEME, SYMBOL, or MOTIF" text.
  3. Create an image for examples that represents this theme, symbol, or motif.
  4. Write a description of each of the examples in the black text box.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.

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