Mr. Darcy’s Guide to Argument for the Sake of Understanding

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Mr. Darcy’s climactic letter to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice is one of the greatest epistolary examples in any novel. To a similar degree, it’s agreed that there is too much fighting, “owning,” and trolling in today’s discourse, and not enough engaging, explaining, and seeking to understand.

But I’m not here to shake my fist at “kids these days” (or the adults from whom they learn these habits).

I’m here to help.

So, using Mr. Darcy’s famous letter, I crafted a carefully scaffolded series of lessons designed to guide students how to:

  • Comprehend and analyze Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth, specifically highlighting the steps he takes to respect his audience, and diffuse the tension between them.
  • Compare and contrast the structural fundamentals of Mr. Darcy’s letter with other letters, paying particular attention to what works (and what doesn’t) in civil communication.
  • Use these fundamentals to write their own exemplary letter.

In today’s ELA classrooms, it seems imperative to teach Mr. Darcy’s letter in itself, and also as a model of argumentation for the sake of understanding, for proudly explaining oneself without prejudice, for—as the kids would say—“squashing things.”

Whether they’re communicating with pen and paper, or—more likely—from the keyboard of a glowing screen, it’s our aim that your students will apply these lessons to their own missives. And just maybe, one by one, we’ll see the quality of our nation’s discourse improve with time.

Technical notes:

  • I designed this to be useful whether or not you’re studying Pride and Prejudice. If you’re not reading the book, you will have to spend a little time providing context to your students. The plans include 5 different context-building options, ranging from 5 minutes long, to watching the first part of the film. It’s up to you, how long you want to spend on this.
  • For those of you using Google Classroom, we’ve provided Google doc versions of all the handouts and worksheets. And if you don’t use Google Classroom, this can still be useful, as it enables you to edit the content to suit your needs.

Enjoy! And as always, please let us know if you have questions, concerns, suggestions, etc. We love hearing from you, and we would much rather you share criticisms with us so we can improve, than have you be unhappy.

Click here to preview the lesson plans.

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