Compare the beginning of the novel and Sinise’s film version “Of Mice and Men” Essay
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The opening of the novel and the film differ from each other in many ways. The film has a tense and dramatic start where as the novel is set in a quiet and peaceful woodland area as Steinbeck sets the scene in clear detail.
The film opens with a haunting, chilling melody lingering in the background of a black screen with white credits appearing for several minutes. Sinise puts the credits at the beginning rather than at the end so that he adds to the drama at the beginning and doesn’t ruin the ending with them.
As the music fades the black background remains with the occasional, faint beam of moonlight, streaming through the open cracks in the wagon of a train. The camera shot focuses on a lonely figure, crouched in the corner, looking by the expression on his face as if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders, as the frequent train whistles drown out his thoughts.
This makes the audience curious about who the man is, which makes them want to watch on to find out the identity of this mysterious character.
Suddenly the film explodes into colour in a dramatic style as a panic-stricken woman, with her dress ripped, runs towards a group of men working on a ranch. The next clip is of the group of men, carrying guns on horseback, all laden in denim chasing two apparently un-armed men. These two men are Lennie and George, who are racing through the grassy shrubs of the plains. A sense of danger and menace is created as George is continually looking over his shoulder and dragging Lennie along as the men on horseback continue to hunt the two men. We later realise that this is symbolic of the two men’s relationship, as George always has to look over his shoulder in real life. It symbolises a mother always looking over her shoulder to see if her baby is all right.
Both of the men fall into a stream and hide under the overgrown reeds and grass from the prairie. The men pass by the stream and this causes a sense of excitement and tension within the audience. The first close up on Lennie shows us his big, frightened eyes, worried like a child, with his dilated pupils reflecting the sunlight. The heavy breathing stops but both men remain silent, and as time goes by the crickets begin to chirp and the audience get a chance to get their breath back.
It then goes back to a train noise and by this time night has fallen. Both men jump onto a train, Lennie goes first and is hoisted up by George; this is symbolic of a mother picking up her child after it has fallen down, or is struggling to get up. Lennie tells George that he is tired, so George tells him to lie down and go to sleep. Lennie’s jacket is wet so George helps him to take it off. This action is symbolic of the mother/child relationship that the two men have. George takes Lennie’s jacket off like a mother undressing a child.
The beginning of the novel is very different as Steinbeck sets the scene in clear detail. He creates a very quiet and peaceful atmosphere by using phrases such as “fresh and green with every spring” and “the leaves lie so deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them”. Unlike this, the film shows an exciting chase in a tense and dangerous atmosphere.
The first time you see Lennie and George in the novel they are calmly walking through the trees and peacefully drinking from the pool.
“His huge companion dropped his blankets and flung himself down as he drank from the surface of the green pool”.
This is another symbol of Lennie behaving like a child. On the other hand when we first see Lennie and George in the film they are running away from a gang of rampant ranchers, seething for their blood.
In the film they are both wearing different clothes. George is wearing denim and Lennie is wearing dungarees to make him look like a ‘big kid’. This differs from the novel as Steinbeck has the two men in identical dress.
“Both were dressed in denim trousers and in denim coats with brass buttons.”
Also “they both wore black shapeless hats”.
The end of the novel is also very different to the end of the film. At the end of the novel Lennie hides in the bush where George said it was safe. While he waits he hallucinates and sees an enormous rabbit appear and speaks to him, telling him that he has done wrong and has let George down for all that he has done for him. Then his Aunt Clara appears and starts scolding him for his behaviour. This does not happen in the film as the audience may loose attention and it takes the edge off the seriousness of the atmosphere, that Sinise tries to create. At the end of the film George is looking for Lennie, trying to reach him before the angry mob do and painfully kill him.
George runs to find Lennie, running as at the beginning of the film, but this time running by himself, running and falling, which is symbolic of his prediciment with Lennie. George finally finds Lennie wandering at a cut by the stream. Lennie runs to George and falls over in the water by George’s feet. Lennie persists to cuddle George like a child cuddling its mother. There is a long focussed camera shot of George and Lennie in the water. This is the first time we see George taller than Lennie and this is symbolic of the parent/child relationship they have with each other. The camera focuses on them for several seconds to emphasise this aspect of their relationship and to show how close the two men are.
In the novel the two men are not in the water when they cuddle and there is no indication that George is bigger than Lennie. They are both on the banks near to the water. Sinise just adds this part in to the film to make it look as if Lennie has just fallen over emphasising his helplessness.
In the novel Lennie asks George to tell him the story of ‘how it is gonna be’, and after several attempts George shoots him in the head and helps him die painlessly and with a certain amount of dignity. At the sound of the shot the men appear and surround George. They think there has been a struggle and George has shot Lennie in self-defence, only Slim realises what has really happened. Although George is left all alone there is the possibility that Slim and he will develop a closer friendship.
Many changes were made from this original ending in the film version. When George was telling Lennie the story of ‘how it was gonna be’ he shoots him first time after Lennie says “and I get to tend the rabbits”. Lennie, who was crouched on his knees, is curled up like a baby or an embryo with George standing over him after he had been shot. Once again this is symbolic of the mother child relationship between them and also symbolises Lennie being like a child. The final camera shot on them both expands on a large shot of the pool where George told Lennie it was supposed to be safe. The audience visualises the trust Lennie had in George and this is emphasised in this scene.
The next shot goes back to the beginning where it is George who was on the train sitting in the corner lonely and isolated. He has a flashback and remembers the good times that he and Lennie had. In this flashback they both walk side by side, smiling and laughing, Lennie puts his arm around George like a child wanting affection from his mother. This caption is in slow motion to make the audience remember how good the friendship was between the two and to make the audience feel sorry for the lonely George. It then goes silent, the picture fades to a black screen and it ends.
Another major difference between the novel and the film is the way in which Curley’s wife is portrayed. In the novel she is pictured as a flirtatious tart, where as in the film she is depicted as pretty and only gently flirts.
In the novel she is seen as being a tart.
” She had full, rouged lips and wide-spaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers.”
This extract clearly shows that she is unsuitably dressed for her surroundings. She wore backless shoes (mules) with ostrich feathers on the instep, with a red dress. This was not the clothing you would expect to be worn on a ranch. She only dresses this way so the men pay attention to her because she is bitterly lonely.
In the film Curley’s wife is seen as very different to this as she has a very pretty face and is only slightly flirtatious, whereas in the novel she blatantly flirts with Lennie. When she asked Lennie what had happened to Curley’s hand, Lennie immediately looks at Candy for help and with no reply, he turns his gaze downwards towards his lap. This shows the reader a side of Lennie that is trying to reach out for help like a young child. Needing guidance he vaguely replies, “Curley got his hand caught in a machine”. Curley’s wife laughed “Ok machine. I’ll talk to you later. I like machines.” She picks out Lennie as he is the weakest and probably the most likely to fall for her charm due to his mental immaturity. Again she persists to flirt with Lennie when the four are talking about George. Lennie says “That’s the guy, and he’s gonna let me tend the rabbits”, to which Curley’s wife adds “Well if that’s all you want, I might get a couple rabbits myself.” She comes across as very manipulative in this part of the novel.
In the film, she seems very lonely, and director Sinise adds a scene, which is not in the novel. In this scene Curley’s wife tells George and Lennie of how Curley broke all of her records, which are her only company. This makes the audience feel sorry for her, as she is very lonely as if she has lost all of her friends.
In the novel the reader sees Curley’s wife as being lonely, but they do not feel sorry for her as she has a very nasty nature. An example of this is when she is in Crook’s room and continually calls the men “bindle stiffs” and “bindle bums”. She says, “they left all the weak ones here”. She repeats this vicious nature when saying, “Standin here talking to a bunch of bindle stiffs – a nigger an’ a dum-dum an’ a lousy ol’ sheep – an’ likin’ it because they ain’t nobody else”.
Crooks tells her to get out of his room and she bombards him with a vicious racial assault saying, “Listen Nigger. I could get you strung up on a tree so easy it ain’t even funny.” This inner personality is only released when she is most lonely, as she believes that Curley cannot satisfy her emotionally or physically, in a marriage she is in to escape a spiral of her self-loneliness. This results in her need to lust for the other men on the ranch, as this may be her only chance to find the happiness she secretly yearns for.
This tone that she speaks to people in is exempt from many parts of the film as the director tries to make the audience feel sorry for her, whilst in the novel you are made to think that she deserved to be killed due to the way she threatened Crooks. I feel Sinise did this to make you feel sorry for her when she dies and to bring George’s killing of Lennie into a deeper prospective.
The age of Curley’s wife also differs in both the novel and the film. In the novel Curley’s wife is merely the tender age of fifteen/sixteen, whilst in the film she is portrayed as a much older and more mature age.
My personal favourite between the novel and the film, is the novel as it is an epic and thrilling read. I think that the film version is very emotional, and the director Sinise portrays the novel in a different way, although the detail and description of the film can never compare with the original novel. You will find that in most cases the film cannot reproduce the same empathy and imagination used when the author first creates their masterpiece.