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KS3/4 English: Sense and Sensibility (1981)

Comparing descriptive language with descriptive techniques in film

Main image of KS3/4 English: Sense and Sensibility (1981)
AuthorJessica Hardiman
TopicJane Austen's Sense and Sensibility
Key Words Austen, Sense and Sensibility, Lucy Steele, Engagement, Edward Ferrars
Show full lesson spec

An extract in which Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars' secret engagement is revealed.

A useful extract for teaching Austen's characterisation, but also her use of narration.

This lesson idea uses the film to compare Austen's presentation of the secret, and the events following it, with the film's adaptation. Students will consider how to direct the revelation of Lucy and Edward's engagement, participating in a full discussion. Students will then analyse how effectively this revelation, and the character emotions are portrayed on film, and will consider how suitable the adaptation is in conveying the key ideas and the details of this extract from Austen's text.

Lesson Objective

  • To produce a comparative analysis of written and cinematic characterisation


Students are given a list of the following characters and should write a short paragraph explaining what connection the characters have with each other. This should clarify the relationships each character is involved with, and will prepare the students to understand more fully the implications o the secret that is revealed in this section of the book.

Students should feed back their ideas, and make notes on any connections that they did not note down. This could also work as a literacy starter, where students peer assessed the spelling of key names and other key terms.


Main Attraction

Read chapter 36 and 37 where the secret of Lucy and Edward's secret engagement comes out. Students should write down (in pairs if possible) the ideas to present to the rest of the class about how these the revelation could be made interesting for a viewer.

They should discuss and record their ideas about which characters they would want to show, what scenes they would want to adapt from the text to make the maximum impact on the audience. Explain to the students that directors often dramatise events which are only discovered by the reader when narrated by other characters, and that they can choose whether they would like to put in scenes which are not in the actual text.

Students then pitch their ideas to the rest of the class and briefly discuss the merits of these ideas. Now show students the film extract and ask students to think about the choices made by the director in comparison with their own ideas.


End Credits

The students should discuss their ideas about the strengths of their own versions and the film extract, explaining the reasons for their views. (This could be done as an introduction to a short speaking and listening assessment, where the students practise explaining their views using evidence and reasons).

Alternatively the students should write up their ideas into a paragraph comparing their own ideas with the director's choices, and analysing how effective the director's dramatisation was.


External Links

Video Clips
1. A secret revealed (2:49)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Sense and Sensibility (1981)Sense and Sensibility (1981)

Read more about this programme

See also

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Explore Austen's take on social interaction between the upper classes

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 English: Mansfield Park (1983)KS3/4 English: Mansfield Park (1983)

Exploring Mrs. Norris's characterisation on the page and on screen

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 English: Persuasion (1995)KS3/4 English: Persuasion (1995)

Study Austen's presentation of 18th century social interactions

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 English: Persuasion 2 (1995)KS3/4 English: Persuasion 2 (1995)

Explore Austen's presentation of characters' emotions through film

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 English: Pride and Prejudice KS3/4 English: Pride and Prejudice

Compare two directors' portrayals of Elizabeth's first visit to Pemberley

Thumbnail image of KS3/4 English: Pride and Prejudice 2KS3/4 English: Pride and Prejudice 2

Compare how two different directors portray Lydia's elopement

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