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Gothic Literature: Using Twitter to Explore Characterization

A Literary Reference Center Plus and Poetry & Short Story Reference Center Lesson Plan

Grade Level: 6-12


A common occurrence in gothic literature is the appearance of a doppelgänger — someone’s double or alter ego. Doppelgänger is a German word meaning “look-alike” or “double walker.” In literature, a doppelgänger is usually shaped as a twin, shadow or a mirror image (character foil) of a protagonist. It refers to a character who physically resembles the protagonist and may have the same name as well. Novels such as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Wuthering Heights all contain doppelgängers.

This lesson plan, which can be modified for middle and high school levels, asks students to consider the role of the doppelgänger in literature — such as how it influences mood and can give rise to the conflict in the story — and explore characterization by creating mock Twitter accounts for a literary doppelgänger.

  1. How do the words, decisions and actions of characters reveal their personalities?
  2. What does it say about an individual’s sense of identity when he or she has a double?
  1. Students will define doppelgänger.
  2. Students will identify characteristics of doppelgängers.
  3. Students will understand how a doppelgänger can impact a story’s mood and/or give rise to a story’s conflict.
  4. Students will analyze and discuss selected works of Gothic literature that contain doppelgängers.
  5. Students will leverage Twitter to explore characterization.
  • Computers/laptops/tablets
  • Access to Literary Reference Center Plus
  • Access to Poetry and Short Story Reference Center
  • Access to Twitter

1. Instruct students on how to search Literary Reference Center Plus and Poetry & Short Story Reference Center. Here are some suggested works:

Full text available from Literary Reference Center Plus:

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Full text available from Poetry & Short Story Reference Center:

“The Red-Headed League” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“The Secret Sharer” by Joseph Conrad
“The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe

Additionally, students can use a reference like Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, 4th edition, which provides character descriptions for major characters from novels. The full text for this title is also available on Literary Reference Center Plus.

2. Discussion Questions:

  • Have you ever been told that you looked exactly like someone else? How did that make you feel? How might this influenced your interactions?
  • What characteristics/traits do doppelgängers possess? How might these traits impact the mood of a story? (Define mood as the emotion the story evokes in the reader.)
  • Why do authors use doppelgängers in their stories? How can a doppelgänger give rise to a story’s conflict?
  • How is the doppelgänger important to [insert specific story title here]? In other words, what is the existence of a doppelgänger meant to teach us?

3. Provide a choice of doppelgängers for students to work with or allow them to choose their own. Students may work alone or can work in pairs. Once each student or pair has chosen a doppelgänger:

  • Ask students to create a mock Twitter profile for their doppelgänger to reflect the character’s personality (see handout and scoring rubric). Then have them answer the following questions:
    • Which characteristics define the doppelgänger?
    • What are the similarities between the doppelgänger and the main character?
    • What are the differences?
    • Which words or descriptions stand out?
  • Identify 3 events from the novel. Ask students to respond to those events using tweets from the dopplegänger’s point of view. How might the doppelgänger’s responses differ from the main character’s?

4. Extension Activities:

  • Choose 3 events from the time period in which the novel is set. Ask students to respond to those events using tweets from the doppelgänger’s point of view.
  • Choose 3 current events. Ask students to respond to these events using tweets from the doppelgänger’s point of view.
  • An alternative approach to the original assignment would be to have students pair up with one student creating a Twitter profile for the story’s main character and one creating a Twitter profile for the doppelgänger and have the two “tweet” back and forth to each other about events from the novel or from the time period in which the story is set.

Formative Assessment

The formative assessment will help students identify their strengths and weaknesses as well as help educators recognize where students are struggling. After students complete creating Twitter handles and tweets in response to events, educators can conduct formative assessments including observations, questioning, discussions, practice presentations, think-pair-share, and constructive quizzes.

Summative Assessment

The summative assessment is designed to measure student achievement at the end of instruction. After students complete creating Twitter handles and tweets in response to events, educators can conduct summative assessments including quizzes/tests with items such as multiple choice, true/false, matching, fill in the blank, and/or one or two sentence response to assess students’ understanding of the chosen works or passages.