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KS4 English: Great Expectations 4 (1946)

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

Main image of KS4 English: Great Expectations 4 (1946)
AuthorJessica Hardiman
TopicGreat Expectations
Key WordsDickens, Victorian, Lean, atmosphere, snobbery, adaptation, Pip
Show full lesson spec

Joe Gargery comes to visit Pip in London

A useful extract for teaching about class in Victorian society, and distinguishing between upper class and working class mores, and gaining an impression of Victorian class snobbery.

This lesson idea assumes that students have already read up to and including chapter twenty seven. Lean's film is used to discuss the way that the class differences are illustrated visually, with Dickens' text version

Lesson Objective

  • To understand how Dickens' set piece on snobbery (in Joe's visit to London) is adapted for film, and to be able to discuss how Lean uses costume, actors' non-verbal communication and props to convey Victorian class customs, distinctions and snobbery.


Begin by showing students the Screenonline extract, The Jolly Bargee from Fanny By Gaslight (1944).

Ask them to take notes about what class differences are illustrated in this scene, with the following focus questions in mind:

  1. What are the differences between the costume worn by Stewart Granger as Harry Somerford, and that worn by the other drinkers? What does this suggest to you about the differences between their positions in society?
  2. What do you notice about Somerford's reaction to his surroundings? How do the other drinkers react to him?

Ask the students to feed back their findings to the class. The teacher should model spidergram or note taking on the board.


Main Attraction

Introduce the students to the main points about Victorian class attitudes. Assuming that students have read chapter 27, quickly recap the main points of the chapter.

Tell the students that the lesson will focus on analysing the way that directors can use costume, props and actors to put across meaning.

In pairs, give the students appendix one, and ask them to read through the extracts from chapter 23. Now ask the students to assume to role of director, and plan for how they can adapt these extracts for film. (There are too many extracts for each student to attempt each one, but this should enable brighter students to extend their thinking by working on a greater variety of scenarios.) The teacher may want to select quotations in order to scaffold work for weaker/brighter students, and promote higher-order questioning.

The students should bear in mind these focus questions when adapting the extracts:

  • What does the reader learn from this extract?
  • How would you recommend adapting this extract for the screen? (E.g. by making Pip's inner thoughts evident in a diary etc.)
  • What costumes would you use and why?
  • What facial expressions would you ask the actors to assume, for which particular words, and why?
  • What non-verbal communication would you ask the actors to perform? Why?
  • What props (if any) would you use, and why?

Students feed back in role as co-directors, presenting their ideas and motives to the rest of the class. Encourage the students to use causal connectives and to use persuasive language while delivering these ideas.


End Credits

Students should now watch the short scene, and discuss what was similar/different about their interpretations contrasted with Lean's. Did the students find anything particularly effective/ineffective? What reasons might David Lean have chosen to direct the various parts of the scene as he did?


External Links

Video Clips
Great Expectations 4. Joe visits (4:13)
Downloadable Teaching Resources
Worksheet One

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Fanny By Gaslight (1944)Fanny By Gaslight (1944)

Read more about this film

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 3 (1946)KS4 English: Great Expectations 3 (1946)

Exploring the use of imagery to create dramatic tension

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