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Comparing And Contrasting The Novel And Movie Version Of The Scarlet Letter

3089 words - 13 pages

The Novel vs. Film of The Scarlet Letter


Films of this era are criticized for substituting violence and special effects for "substance". Many believe that creating a movie script is a juvenile form of writing, a shrub to the oak of a novel. Upon reading both the novel The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and viewing the film produced by Roland Joffe, one notices the tremendous effort put into both. This essay will explore the many differences and similarities between the book and movie.


The film is "freely adapted" from the novel. The word "free" describing the adaptation is well used- there are major differences in terms of time frame, characters, visual ...view middle of the document...

He longed for Hester to name him as her co-sinner, and genuinely despised hiding behind a hypocritical silence. When Hester refused to name her lover in the book, Dimmesdale had this reaction: "She will not speak!" murmured Dimmesdale, who, leaning over the balcony, with his hand upon his heart, had awaited the result of his appeal. He now drew back, with a long respiration. 'Wondrous strength and generosity of a woman's heart! She will not speak!" He was soothed upon discovering Hester's strength. He sighed and sat back, the pressure off him, while he marveled at her courage. In the exact scene in the film, the viewer could see only Dimmesdale's pleading face and a blurred mass of spectators while he begged Hester to reveal him, to liberate him of his sin. Dimmesdale also displayed his strength through tirelessly visiting Hester's prison cell every day, disregarding the rules that she could receive no visitors, and each day he was wrestled from the prison door by several beadles. In writing, Dimmesdale was not inclined to do anything with the potential of arousing suspicion. Chillingsworth had little influence on Dimmesdale in the film. Hester provided her lover with a wealth of information about her ex- husband; within seconds of their meeting, Dimmesdale was fully aware of the presence of the "black man." Chillingsworth's evil influence played more of a public role, not restricted to a gnawing one weak man to wretchedness. Rather than making vague, fleeting comments to Dimmesdale on their sprawling walks, he agitated the community into hatred for the Indians. Pearl's film characterization differed largely from her sprite-like, "unencumbered by rule" attitude she adopted in the book. She appeared as a sweet, tractable child. Pearl showed a lack curiosity of her mother' letter; it was she who discarded it beneath the horse carriage as Hester, Dimmesdale, and herself left at the conclusion of the film for their new life in the Carolinas. In Hawthorne's novel, Pearl held the letter as almost an organ of her mother's. She drew it, pondered it, and refused to talk to her mother the few times she removed it from her breast, stubbornly planting herself across the stream from Dimmesdale and Hester, an animal of the untamed forest. Because of the visual nature all films, more emphasis was placed on the outward lives of the characters; one cannot hear their emotionally tortured thoughts. Hester, for example, seems to be living a reasonably happy life with Pearl and Mituba. She is viewed as taking the circumstances well because of her tough public face. The viewer, however, sees what the townspeople do- only her callused personality. Hours of film of her thoughts and feelings would be needed to effectively show the viewer what the reader sees. There are a number of plot differences between the film and the novel, some of which stemmed from the introduction of new characters. Chillingsworth hung himself after mistakenly scalping Brewster instead of...

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