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KS4 English: Great Expectations 3 (1946)

Exploring the use of imagery to create dramatic tension

Main image of KS4 English: Great Expectations 3 (1946)
AuthorJessica Hardiman
TopicGreat Expectations
Key Words Dickens, Victorian, Lean, Pathetic fallacy, atmosphere, adaptation, Pip, tension, symbolism
Show full lesson spec

An extract with Miss Havisham

A useful extract for teaching Dickens' links between surroundings/setting and character.

This lesson idea assumes that students have already read chapter eight. It uses Lean's film to identify and discuss how elements of gothic horror contribute to the film's/novel's atmosphere in chapter eight, where Miss Havisham is introduced. It is a fairly standard way of linking setting to character, but should enable students to make independent links about the symbolic relationship between characters and the settings in which they are placed at particular times.

Lesson Objective

  • To understand how Lean uses camera shots/angles to complement his portrayal of Pip's visit to Satis House.
  • To be able to write critically of a textual extract, bringing in reference to Lean's film, and how it contributes to Dickens' purpose.


Students should look up (depending on their vocabulary) 'symbolism', 'gothic', 'grotesque', 'hyperbole', 'connotation' and 'denotation'; if higher ability students, they should look up key words from text that might have alternative explanations.

Show students images of the following, either by giving them an A4 sheet with these on, or on a Power Point slide: chains; beer; candles; light; dark; lace; mould

Ask students to annotate the denotations and connotations of these images. They could do this either by annotating on a sheet or making a small table in their books.

Extension: ask students to write down examples of where these images are used in films/TV (e.g. chains are used in horror films/prison stories).Students should feedback their ideas and update their annotations based on input from other students.


Main Attraction

Using the starter, ask students to consider what symbolism means, and what the seven images they annotated for their starter might be used to symbolise. Ask them to give reasons for their answer. Students should ideally have already read chapter eight. They should return to it, scanning for the images featured in the starter, and annotating the quotations with their ideas about what these might symbolise.

Discuss with students the different options for a director when shooting a film, in terms of choice of lens and choice of shot. Show students examples of:

  • close up
  • shots from different angles
  • longshot
  • pan

Ask the students to draw a table (or use appendix two) in which they should record where in the clip they noticed an example of each shot-type. They should also record possible reasons they think that the director might have chosen to use this shot. (Extension: teachers could ask brighter pupils to record the sound effects that they hear as they watch the film, as well as any other effects, e.g. the use of lighting).

Having watched this the students should feed back the information that they discovered, and record extra details in their tables. Students should then work in pairs, or small groups, to locate relevant textual evidence for the extracts from the clip they focussed on. Students should then try to think in their groups about what the camera shot/angle adds to the audience's impression of each extract. Students should record the information that they discovered.

Ask students to feedback on:

  • what imagery appeared similar to those examples explored in the starter?
  • what might these images symbolise?

End Credits

Students should write a paragraph in which they analyse in detail a particular extract from the clip (chosen by them). Students should discuss the text first, analysing what Dickens' language conveys to the reader, and then refer to the choice of camera shot/angle, and explain what this might add to the reader's/audience's interpretation. They should also try to refer to symbolism in their writing, and comment on how the symbolism is enhanced/ignored by the director, and to what effect.


External Links

Video Clips
Great Expectations 3. Visit to Satis House (3:50)
Downloadable Teaching Resources
Worksheet One
Worksheet Two

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Great Expectations (1946)Great Expectations (1946)

Read more about this film

See also

Thumbnail image of KS4 English: Great Expectations (1946)KS4 English: Great Expectations (1946)

Comparing the film and novel's presentation of pathetic fallacy

Thumbnail image of KS4 English: Great Expectations 2 (1946)KS4 English: Great Expectations 2 (1946)

Exploring how Pip's imagination is brought to life on film

Thumbnail image of KS4 English: Great Expectations 4 (1946)KS4 English: Great Expectations 4 (1946)

Exploring Victorian class distinctions and Pip's snobbery in the film and novel

Thumbnail image of KS4 English: Great Expectations 5 (1946)KS4 English: Great Expectations 5 (1946)

Imagining subtitles and special effects using the film without sound

Thumbnail image of Dickens on FilmDickens on Film

The 19th Century literary giant has long been a favourite of filmmakers