The reward of reading a book is a happy ending – or at least a satisfactory one. You read hundreds of pages that follow the hero or heroine through challenges, setbacks and triumphs. Surely love and justice will win in the end. It’s a letdown when you find out the heroes do not meet with the happy ending they deserve. Readers long for closure and resolution. Here are some of the most unsatisfying endings in literature . . .
1. The Great Gatsby. The reader wants Daisy Buchanan to leave her brutish husband Tom and run away with Jay Gatsby. After all Daisy loves Jay and she is trapped in an unhappy marriage. In a tragic mix-up, the husband of Tom’s mistress thinks Gatsby was driving the car that killed his wife. He guns Gatsby down as the innocent Jay floats in his swimming pool.
2. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. After following Tess from childhood through the ups and downs of her life, she is finally reunited with Angel Clare, her husband and the only man she has ever loved. Okay, after Angel resurfaces Tess kills her rapist with a butter knife and runs away with Angel. But surely the court will let her off. Or not. Dear, sweet Tess is hanged, and Angel runs off with her sister.
3. Ethan Frome is the story of a good man. Mattie, his wife Zeena’s cousin, is a good woman. Even though Ethan and Mattie are deeply in love, they refrain from consummating their passion out of moral principles. Their only choice is to kill themselves. They board a sled and push off down a snow-covered hill and aim the sled for a tree. Boom! They hit the tree, but as a result of the accident Mattie is paralyzed and Ethan is crippled. Who takes care of Mattie? Ethan’s wife.
4. Billy Budd – what a guy! All the sailors on the ship love and admire him. The crew despises the cruel master-at-arms John Claggart who falsely accuses Billy of conspiracy to mutiny. Out of frustration Billy hits Claggart so hard it kills him. The crew and even the captain feel that Claggart had it coming, but Billy is hanged anyway.
5. Randle McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a charming anti-hero who gives new life to patients in a mental hospital. McMurphy helps patients regain confidence and purpose. The reader wants Nurse Ratched fired and McMurphy and others released from the mental ward. In the end McMurphy is given a lobotomy and is reduced to a vegetative state. Chief Bromden mercifully smothers McMurphy and escapes from the hospital.
6. The Last of the Mohicans is a long book that chronicles the early British settlers’ relationship with native tribes. Toward the end of the book 2,000 Huron warriors massacre British soldiers, women and children. It’s downhill all the way after the attack. By the end of the book favorite characters are kidnapped and killed, and the final pages describe their funerals.
7. Huckleberry Finn leads the reader on an exciting adventure. He stages his own murder and runs away from his abusive father. He and runaway slave Jim share pleasures and dangers as they float down the Mississippi. When they miss the turn north to the Ohio River due to fog, they find themselves heading south into slave states. Tom Sawyer finally shows up and rescues Huck and Jim is freed. The reader thinks Huck will return to Missouri, go to school and have a good life. But nooooo! Huck rejects a civilized life and runs away again – this time to the Oklahoma Territory.
8. A Farewell to Arms immerses the reader in the unpredictable events of World War I. The hero Frederic finds love with Catherine, a nurse in Milan. After deserting, risking capture and execution, Frederic finds Catherine and they escape in a rowboat to Switzerland. Catherine becomes pregnant. Happiness is on the horizon, but nooo! Catherine dies giving birth to a stillborn baby boy. Frederic walks away in the rain.
9. All the King’s Men chronicles the rise of Willie Stark from good ole boy in the South to a crooked politician. But no way does the good ole boy deserve to die from assassination on the state senate floor by the irate brother of Willie’s mistress.
10. Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter really deserves a happy ending. She has suffered imprisonment and public humiliation for giving birth to a child in her husband’s long absence. Hester refuses to disclose the name of the child’s father. Her plan to run away to England with Reverend Dimmesdale, the father of her little girl, is within reach. They almost make it, but Dimmesdale dies hours before they are scheduled to board the ship.
The trailer for the new movie version of the book by Madeline L’Engle is on YouTube. The film opens March 9, 2018 and boasts an all-star cast including Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Zach Galifianakis, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mindy Kaling, and Oprah Winfrey.
April 23rd will be the bard’s birthday.
Harold Bloom, Yale University professor and Shakespeare scholar, observes that Shakespeare’s writing marks the beginning of the modern era and our idea of what it means to be human. Shakespeare explored human fears, virtues and flaws, giving each character a psychological profile and inventing complex relationships that still spark debate. Did Lady Macbeth force her husband to murder by questioning his manly courage? Or would Macbeth have killed the king anyway without his wife’s taunts?
If you once had to memorize a Shakespeare passage, try to recite it again. Chances are you will discover fragments of Shakespeare’s verse in the cobwebs of your mind. If you never had to learn a passage by heart, try memorizing a few lines. Here are some short quotes worth committing to memory:
“Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant only taste of death but once.” (Julius Caesar, Act II, scene ii, line 32)
“For stony limits cannot hold love out.” (Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene ii, line 67)
“The quality of mercy is not strain’d. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven. (The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, scene i, line 184)
“All the world’s a stage, and men and women merely players.” (As You Like It, Act II, scene vii, line 139)
“To be, or not to be: that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles . . .
(Hamlet, Act III, scene i, line 55)
“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day, to the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. (Macbeth, Act V, scene v, line 19)
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. (The Tempest, Act IV, scene i, line 156)
Why is the mockingbird a big deal in To Kill a Mockingbird? Atticus Finch tells his kids not to kill a mockingbird because it’s an innocent songbird. In the novel the bird symbolizes the innocence of Tom Robinson and Boo Radley. That’s not all. Charles Darwin discovered that mockingbirds in the Galapagos Islands differed from island to island and the mainland.
A year after his voyage on the HMS Beagle in 1835, Darwin was puzzled by his notes on mockingbirds. Scientific doctrine said that species were immutable, unchangeable. BINGO! The different species of mockingbirds proved that species did evolve. The mockingbird metaphor in Harper Lee’s novel is not only a symbol of innocence, but also evolution. Racists, bigots and cultures can change. Thanks, Darwin.
I blog about movies – specifically the movie version of a book. There are hundreds of bloggers, magazines, TV shows, critics, and websites talking about the differences between the movie and the book. Sure, I’d love to write a review of the film, but the competition is too steep and I can’t compete. How do I get noticed? I separate from the herd. I try to set myself apart from other bloggers. Here are 6 steps you can take to write a blog that will attract readers:
1. Find a Niche. Focus on a narrow aspect of the subject that nobody else is talking about. In my case I zeroed in on the difference between a book and the movie version of the book. Within that narrow subject I can still talk about other films, actors, directors, box office success, special effects, and everything else that has to do with movies and movie making.
2. Original Point of View. Sorting out bloggers who are a waste of time from those who are perceptive and informative doesn’t take long. Once you discover who the best bloggers are, you go to them directly. Readers want to learn and gain insight from your observations. Give them an original point of view and they will come back for more.
3. Get Organized. The secret to writing once or twice a week is having an inspiration system. Don’t just sit down and write off the top of your head. Readers immediately detect fluff, BS, and old news. For ideas I keep files beside my computer. In those files are notes I’ve made, lists of ideas for blogs, big fat folders full of magazine and newspaper clippings, and articles I’ve found online. You can also keep an inspiration file folder on your computer. If I am burned out or have writer’s block, I go to the files. They haven’t failed me yet. A valuable tip is to always note the date of the clipping and the source. I also write a note on the clipping so I will know at a glance what it’s about.
4. The Title is Your Bait. You are up against the Google algorithm that will sort your blog by key words in the title. With that in mind, come up with a title that people will be searching for.
5. Key Words. You’ve got to feed the Google crawler in the first paragraph. Sprinkle a few key words – not EVERY key word – in the first few sentences. The Google algorithm is a mathematical formula that operates like a machine. You’ve got to give it what it’s programmed to look for.
6. Assume Authority. Use the first paragraph to assert your point of view on a subject. Readers are looking for affirmation of their own thoughts and feelings and assurance that you know what you are talking about. Put your experience and knowledge out there from the start. I’m not suggesting that you name-drop, list awards you’ve won or brag on your job or what college you went to. Just gently establish yourself as someone who knows the subject at hand by the way you speak about it. Tone is everything. Don’t mention other websites or sources in the first paragraph. Save citations and quotes for body paragraphs. Otherwise, the Google crawler will recognize a source that is higher on page ranking and count it toward the source’s website instead of your blog.
Don’t be timid about stating opinions. That’s what your audience is looking for!
Hollywood just can’t get Daisy Buchanan right. In movie versions of The Great Gatsby Daisy is portrayed as a neurotic blonde. Daisy was not like that. Both Mia Farrow in the 1974 film and Carey Mulligan in the 2013 movie play inaccurate portraits of the woman who triggered Jay Gatsby’s obsession. In the book Daisy is a sultry, southern brunette with a low, seductive voice. The on-screen switch in the Daisy character’s looks and personality leaves the viewer puzzled. Why is Gatsby so stuck on the weak, nervous woman in the movie versions? If the movie audience could see the novel’s version of Daisy, a refined, sensuous, dark-haired beauty from Kentucky, Gatsby’s fascination with Daisy and his compulsion to win her back would make sense. Roger Ebert’s review of the 2013 film makes the point that if Carey Mulligan had matched the book’s description of Daisy, viewers would have understood why Gatsby idealized her.
The book describes Daisy as a woman so desirable that she casts a spell on men. She has dark, shiny hair and a pale face (Chapter 8). Part of Daisy’s allure is her low voice and southern accent. She stretches out her syllables in a southern drawl as she croons to her young daughter: “Bles-sed pre-cious. Did mother get powder on your old yellowy hair?” (Chapter 7). At Gatsby’s party Daisy sings along to the orchestra in her sweet contralto voice (Chapter 6). Daisy’s southern roots emerge at the Plaza hotel where she orders a mint julep, the Kentucky Derby cocktail. Her southern accent makes her voice “glowing and singing” (Chapter 1), “a deathless song” (Chapter 5). Daisy’s voice had “the inexhaustible charm that rose and fell . . . the jingle of it, the cymbal’s song of it . . .” (Chapter 7). Daisy murmured in a “low thrilling voice men who cared for her found difficult to forget” (Chapter 5).
Daisy was sensual, but she was not a temptress. She was a woman with feminine charisma. Her magnetism is described as “warm human magic” (Chapter 6) and “the pale magic of her face” (Chapter 8). For Gatsby, Daisy’s allure was more than her looks and the “fluctuating, feverish warmth” of her voice (Chapter 5). Gatsby found Daisy “excitingly desirable” (Chapter 8) because he was drawn to her wealth and breeding. As the most popular girl in Louisville, Kentucky, Daisy lived in a grand, elegant home. Her family were Louisville society. To Gatsby she gleamed “like silver” (Chapter 8). In Chapter 7 Gatsby tells Nick Carraway that Daisy’s voice “is full of money.” Nick realizes that to Gatsby, Daisy is a prize. That other men adore her adds to her “value” (Chapter 7). Gatsby sees Daisy “high in a white palace, the king’s daughter, the golden girl . . .” (Chapter 7). Pursuing Daisy became Gatsby’s obsession because she fulfilled his dream of success. In chasing after her, Gatsby “had committed himself to the following of a grail” (Chapter 8).
The movie versions of The Great Gatsby capture most of the characters in the book accurately – except Daisy. What a difference a warm, sultry, southern brunette would make on the screen. Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy would then make sense.
Is there an accurate movie version of the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? The answer is no. Hollywood has produced seven movies of Robert Louis Stevenson’s enduring tale. Every one of them adds characters who are not in the book. All but two of the movies omit the important character of Mr. Gabriel John Utterson, Dr. Jekyll’s lawyer. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars have been cast in the films, including John Barrymore, Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Mickey Rooney, Miriam Hopkins, Jack Palance and Fredric March who won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Jekyll and Hyde in the 1931 movie version. For all their popularity, the films do not follow the book.
Why can’t Hollywood get it right when it comes to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Here are a few reasons . . .
• Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a psychological story. The book is long on clues and short on action. The reader knows only what Mr. Utterson sees and knows. If a filmmaker told the story chapter by chapter, the resulting movie would be vague and boring.
• The details of Mr. Hyde’s decadence and debauchery are implied, but not stated. What did Hyde do when he went out on the town at night? Where did he go? The author Stevenson doesn’t say. He gives no specific details about Hyde’s activities. Stevenson hints that Hyde is up to no good, but he doesn’t spell it out. Is Hyde a thief? A rapist? A serial killer? A terrorist? Screenwriters have had free rein to fill in the blanks.
• The drugs Dr. Jekyll concocts present a challenge for screenwriters. In the book when Jekyll drinks the formula, the chemicals change his personality, but also his physique. Movies can’t recreate Jekyll’s transformation in the novel. The book describes Hyde as “dwarf-like” and “ape-like.” It is impossible for an actor to become shorter, so costume and makeup pros give Hyde dark, hairy skin. Since an actor can’t shrink in size, he stoops, slumps and bends over as he walks.
• Two crimes are not enough for movie audiences. The book states that Hyde trampled a little girl and beat a man to death with a cane. That’s it. Screenwriters are obliged to make up Hyde’s crimes and wild adventures. An easy choice is to add violence and scenes of Hyde’s sexual escapades.
• Women characters are invented to depict the depravity of Hyde. The only female characters in the book are a reference to a little girl Hyde trampled and an unnamed maid who happened to be looking out her window and witnessed Hyde murdering Sir Danvers Carew. Hollywood made a whole movie about the maid, Mary Reilly starring Julia Roberts. Most film versions portray Hyde as a sadist who abuses women.
• Casting big name actors and actresses in a film boosts box office revenue. Adding characters who are not in the book is a way to add star power.
• Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a short novel with only 10 chapters, some of which are two pages long. Screenwriters must add more scenes to the story. Scenes that depict Hyde’s bad behavior have become the main plot of the movie versions.
The subtlety and mystery of the novel is its power and explains why it has endured as a work of literature. Robert Louis Stevenson deliberately omitted the details of Hyde’s crimes and sins. The author leaves Hyde’s antics to the reader’s imagination, making Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde a sort of interactive novel that connects to the psyche of the individual reader. The uniqueness of the novel limits the possibility of an accurate movie version.
Which movie version is the best? Although the movie is not like the book, the 1941 film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at least has the best cast of all the movie versions. Spencer Tracy plays Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Ingrid Bergman plays Ivy Peterson, a woman Hyde seduces and holds under his spell. Lana Turner plays Dr. Jekyll’s fiancé Beatrix Emery. The three stars deliver memorable performances, and the story line is minimally accurate.
Two movies full of dark satire are winning awards in 2023. The Banshees of Inisherin features self-mutilation and arson as a means of un-friending a long-time companion. The Menu uses ultra-dark gallows humor, including suicide, mutilation and mass-murder as a problem-solving solution to life’s annoyances. Both comedy genres are tools of satire. Dark comedy mocks the worst human conditions like poverty, sexism, racism, ageism, animal cruelty, failures and setbacks. Gallows humor makes fun of death, suicide, torture, execution and life-threatening situations like war, disease and famine.
Thousands of years before George Carlin, Bill Maher or The Daily Show, Aristophanes, the “Father of Comedy,” poked fun at politicians, generals, elite citizens and the general hypocrisy he observed in 450 B.C. in Athens. Other satirists followed, including Dante, Chaucer, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Moliere, Voltaire, Swift, Carroll, Shaw, Ionesco and Vonnegut. Today late-night TV comedy skits by Saturday Night Live, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers and others use satire, but rarely resort to dark comedy and gallows humor for laughs.
The actors in Banshees and The Menu don’t wink, jest, or play for laughs. Dark comedy and gallows humor require a solemn tone for impact. The characters in Voltaire’s Candide (1759) interact in earnest as if the plot sequences are entirely plausible. They suffer kidnapping, disease, flogging and the loss of body parts as they flee pedophiles, rapists, wars, earthquakes, the Spanish Inquisition and Jesuit missionaries. Playing it straight is the key to dark humor. The narrator of Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal (1729) seriously suggests the solution to the problem of starving beggars is to eat their babies. In Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), “The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. ‘Off with his head!’ she said, without even looking around.”
Movie audiences have been numbed by blockbuster action films and super-hero sequels. The linear plot lines are devoid of satire, irony and subtlety. The Banshees of Inisherin and The Menu make audiences think and reflect on what exactly is being ridiculed. The dark comedy trend may not last, but for at least this year, a few movies reach the height of cinematic art.
5 movies we're obsessed with that will leave you wanting more. Guaranteed to make you laugh, cry, and question life.
1. La La Land
2. Bruce Almighty
3. Empire of the Sun
4. The Kingsman (all of them)
5. Parasite (oh, yes!)
THE MOVIE VERSION OF ELLA ENCHANTED IS NOT LIKE THE BOOK by Gail Carson Levine
Find the recommended movie and book here:
DVD: Ella Enchanted
Streaming: Ella Enchanted
Book: Ella Enchanted
Study Guide compares the novel ELLA ENCHANTED by Gail Carson Levine to the movie version Ella Enchanted (2004) starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver, and Vivica A. Fox. The main plot line and characters survive this film even though 18 chapters of the book are omitted from the movie.
RECOMMENDED MOVIE: Ella Enchanted (2004) starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Minnie Driver, and Vivica A. Fox.
WHAT’S IN THE BOOK THAT’S NOT IN THE MOVIE?
Lady Eleanor’s funeral, Apple the centaur, Chock the parrot, gnomes, zoo, Finishing School, Hattie’s wig, Sir Peter’s financial problems, Edmund of Wolleck, sliding down the bannister, Lela, ball gowns, white mask, pumpkin coach, lost glass slipper, King Jerrold, and Queen Daria.
WHAT’S IN THE MOVIE THAT’S NOT IN THE BOOK?
Narrator, Edgar, Heston, Benny, paper boy, newspaper, escalator, Frell Community College, Prince Charmont’s fan club, poison crown, dagger, Ella in prison, fight at the coronation.
WHAT’S THE SAME?
Magic book, ogres, giants, elves, Ella and Char’s romance, Mandy, Lucinda, Sir Peter, Dame Olga, Hattie, Olive, Slannen, and Areida, Lucinda’s gift of obedience, Sir Peter’s marriage to Dame Olga, Ella’s marriage to Char.
Download the Study Guide Now: Ella Enchanted: Movie Version