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Full moon risen and a primal urge to kill is the perfect way to start the week. At least that is the atmosphere somewhat protagonist Dexter Morgan enjoys as both the book and television series open to this imagery. The book Darkly Dreaming Dexter follows an illusive man doing what he can to feed an internal battle with a mysterious entity he calls “the Dark Passenger.” Both literature and film begin quite heavily with a description of the perfect night that carves a path into the audience’s mind, channeling the common craving of information on this enigmatic plot.
While very similar, the two chronicles have understandable differences including the pacing of the story, advantages in the use of multiple forms of media, and overall satisfaction of the spectator’s senses and expectations.
Pacing varies drastically when bringing text alive to a screen. Books slow down a scene so the reader can comprehend in small doses what they need to visualize and often have more hints as to what a character’s mind is processing.
In chapter one Dexter vividly illustrates what makes his hunt sound so ideal. “Full, fat, reddish moon, the night as light as day, the moonlight flooding down across the land and bringing joy… the full-throated call of the tropical night, the soft and wild voice of wind roaring through the hairs on your arm.” (Lindsey 8) These words dance in front of the reader’s eyes and give a pleasant yet eerie picture before a monologue describing what is driving the main interest of the story.
Each line is set up to build a slow suspense to the events they precede. Episode one of the drama opens with a physical representation of that same visual while simultaneously jumping into a vague description of Dexter’s motives. This compression still presents a feeling of curiosity while staying confined to the time allotted to each episode.
Words sometimes cannot provoke certain emotion in an audience. This is where music, sound effects, and human expression come into play. The first scene doesn’t even begin, and the haunting, dissonant sounds of piano and harp flood the viewer’s ears transmitting a disturbing, superstitious chill down the spine. It provides so many more layers of context to the scene. Dexter describes in the book, “I sat up in his backseat and slipped the noose around his neck. One quick, slippery, pretty twist and the coil of fifty-pound-test fishing line settled tight,” (Lindsey 11) The first episode mirrors that and weaves in sounds of metal lines being plucked, echoing and slicing through the soundtrack. Human expression and dictation also provide insight into a character’s feelings without it being articulated in script. It can be inferred that someone is angry or defensive by a frown or body position rather than explained.
Both stories, while different in pace and perspective, give the audience what they want quickly and without too much of a lull in progression. There is an overwhelming sense of anxiousness when relating to Dexter. Will he accomplish his goals? What kind of consequences will arise of his actions? Expectations are high from the start of the two, but the answers to questions that arise during the scenes are delivered in contrasting ways. The monologue from the book goes into greater detail than the TV series, so when comparing the two, the series seems lacking in substance and satisfaction from the audience’s perspective. However, this is counterbalanced by seeing the viewpoints of characters other than Dexter which the book does not provide as it is from his perspective the entirety of the novel.
In conclusion both adaptations are outstanding in the purposes they strive to achieve. The differences described between the two are necessary for keeping the audience involved in their respective ways, and come together in a beautiful and significant arrangement.
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