Year 12 and 13 English Literature
A Level English Literature students study Graham Greene’s murder thriller, Brighton Rock, and visit the scenic sights of the South Downs and Devil’s Dyke to understand references to the ‘countryside'
As part of their ‘Elements of Crime’ specification, A Level English Literature students study Graham Greene’s murder thriller, Brighton Rock, published in 1938. Set in 1930s Brighton, Greene, through the setting, explores the represented duality of the area: as a place of entertainment and revelry, yet with a sordid criminal underworld lurking beneath the bright lights. A crucial part of understanding the text is understanding the setting and its context. As such, the students first visited the scenic sights of the South Downs and Devil’s Dyke to understand references to the ‘countryside’. In the novel, there are several references to the ‘downs’, meaning downland, so far removed from the raucousness and glamour of the city; instead ‘a vacant plot full of salt grass and wet thorn bushes like bedraggled fowls’. Crucial to the novel’s ending are the dangerous cliffs and heights of the countryside and therefore by visiting, students were able to appreciate the ‘other side’ of Brighton.
Moreover, seeing as much of the novel’s action takes place on and around the pier, it was paramount for the students to visit so they could step into the shoes of the characters and walk in the same footsteps around the beach, the arcades, the food stalls, the aquarium and the fairground rides, much like Hale did in the first chapter. Opposite the pier, the students were also able to catch a glimpse of the Grand Hotel, upon which Greene’s Cosmopolitan Hotel was modelled. From there, the students visited the narrow streets of The Lanes and could appreciate how the slightness would lend itself to crime in the darkness. On their journey through The Lanes, the students spotted a barbershop which paid homage to the novel, with each chair representing a different character, from Spicer, to Dallow, to Cubitt, to Pinkie, to Colleoni and to Kite. Instead of imagining the settings of Brighton Rock, the students were able to visit the places spoken of in the novel and now have a greater understanding and appreciation for Greene’s motivations for his crime novel. This will support the Year 13 students in their upcoming public examinations and will serve as a foundation for Year 12 students, who can build upon their new knowledge when they begin the novel in the next academic year.