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“Maurice” by E.M. Forster Novel And Film Adaptation Comparative Analysis

It is not a secret, though the truth is rather sad, that the works of imaginative literature are not so popular today if compared with the demand for movies. There is no doubt that watching a film is less time-consuming in comparison with the reading of a book that can take several evenings or more. Still, we have no intention to condemn the movie industry for the transformation of the books because in this light even a translated version of the primary source can arouse discontent. On the contrary, movie-makers should be praised for the fact that they frequently choose to make a film version of the novels of outstanding writers. These films are of great use because they are based on plots of high quality, those that have been tested by the reading audience already. At the same, a great responsibility is shouldered by the directors because their task is to become a medium between the original writer and the audience. A director has no right to spoil the literary work, but he has a mission of opening the main message of the work to the audience. At the same time, he should remember that he is a creator as well, and he will create a new masterpiece. This is why the attempt will be made to analyze one scene from the book “Maurice” by E.M. Forster and the same scene from the screen version of the novel by James Ivory in order to show the quality of the screen version.

First of all, it is necessary to give an explanation of the reasons for the choice of the scenes that will be compared in the present work. It is evident that the primary scene of any movie bears the greatest importance, it initiates the viewer into the action and it creates the primary response of the person. Usually, several first minutes of the film are enough for a viewer to decide if the film is worth watching or not. Thus, the importance of the first scene of any film is unquestionable. In fact, the same goes with the work of imaginative literature, usually, several first pages are enough to decide if you are going to continue reading or the book will be committed to dust on the bookshelf. As for the beginning of the book and the film under consideration, it is necessary to mention that the beginnings are of special importance because they explain the origin of homosexuality of the protagonist, the feature that is the basis of the works. This is why the initial scene of the film and the novel will be compared.

On reading the book and watching the screen version, it is possible to state that they have a lot of differences, which may be explained by the director’s creativity and his inability, and, moreover, the absence of necessity of reproducing the book word-by-word, and common features are also numerous. As for the differences between the analyzed works, the first thing that bursts upon the eye of a viewer is the difference between the age of the protagonist. Foster creates Maurice as a fourteen-year-old boy that may be proven by the facts that Mr. Abrahams, the Principal, parted “from his pupils when they were fourteen” (Forster 4), and Maurice answers Mr. Ducie’s question about ages as “fourteen and a half” (Forster 7) while Ivory presents him as an eleven-year-old boy. The age gap between two versions of one character may be explained by the difference of social opinion about the age of male pubescence at the beginning of the twentieth century and nowadays. Probably, Ivory thought that fourteen years was the time when boys were “mature” already and the choice of an older boy would be unconvincing. Still, this discrepancy of ages is not very valuable.

The omission of the information about the Principal, Mr. Abrahams, and the atmosphere at the school where Maurice studied, appears to be more valuable. Forster gives a short account about Mr. Read, the Principal, and the way he treated his schoolboys: he “fed his boys well and saw that they did not misbehave. The rest he gave to the parents”, “he was a preparatory schoolmaster of the old-fashioned sort” (Forster 3). Thus, the preparatory schoolmaster is the representative of the snobbish society of that time, one of those who are scared to speak to the boys about such things as human sexuality or relationship between people. The same goes with another teacher, Mr. Read, for whom the boys stayed in a “frozen” state forever, they “never married and seldom died” (Forster 4). These characters are absolutely omitted in the screen version of “Maurice”, the action starts with the conversation between Maurice Hall and the third teacher, Mr. Ducie. This omission may be considered a weak point of Ivory because the atmosphere at the school, evidently, played a great role in the development of the protagonist’s character. Besides, the director omits other important details that concern the protagonist’s past, concentrating his attention on his adult life. In fact, this is wrong, because sexual preferences start to develop during childhood, and this is very important and should not be ignored.

Besides, the scenery of the scenes in the film and in the book does not correspond to each other: Forster says that “the day was grey and windless, with little distinction between clouds and sun” (6). In its turn, the action in the film takes place on a very windy day. However, the choice of stormy weather may be considered a special feature applied by the director; it may be showing the crucial importance of the talk that finds its reflection in the weather. Thus, this feature shows the visual ability of a film to act as a means of persuasion while the book is deprived of this quality.

However, the dialogue between the protagonist and Mr. Ducie is preserved and presented by the director of the screen version. He retains and manifests the main things discussed by the characters with much detail. Both, the book and the film, openly show that rude and unprofessional “lecture” given by the teacher put a wet blanket on the boy’s ideas about marriage and married life forever. Though the dialogue is a bit paraphrased, it conveys the idea that was implied by Forster: the vital importance of the talk between the protagonist and his teacher. Thus, the screen version of the novel manages to render the main ideas of the book successfully.

Drawing a conclusion, it may be stated that the screen version of the book “Maurice” is a very qualitative one. It contains a lot of omissions because it is impossible to reproduce the whole text of a book that would, probably, need series instead of a film. However, Ivory has managed to create a masterpiece that has its own charm. On the whole, it may be useful to read the novel and to watch the film as well, this would provide a new vision of the problem of homosexual relationships by two talented people: E.M. Forster and James Ivory.

Works Cited

Forster, E.M. Maurice. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 2005.


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