There are differences between characterization written into Hurstonr’s novel and Oprahr’s film. Janier’s character pivots around the men in her life. We do not see her learn to connect with herself. The relationship between her and Nanny is glossed over. In the book, Nanny is strong and loves hard. She imparts wisdom and observations of life. Nanny warns Janie that de white man is de ruler of everything (Hurston 14). In the film, Nanny does not marry Janie off to ensure she is taken care of before Nanny dies. She justifies giving Janie to Logan with fear and bitterness.
The film also depicts the relationship between Janie and Tea Cake differently. In the book, Janie and Tea Caker’s relationship has eroticism with more intimacy than in the film. The sexiness is unnecessary as the actors have on-screen chemistry. Sexualizing them removes the kinship they developed in the book. In the novel, Janie and Tea Cake marry and become social butterflies. In the film, however, they are only lovers. The film does not show Janier’s relationship with Pheoby and Mrs. Turner. Pheoby does not defend Janie to the other women and Mrs. Turner is just a gossipy neighbor.
Do you believe the movie adequately captures the most important issues of the novel? Yes or no. Why or why not?
I do not feel it adequately captured the issues. It misses the sense of community and Black history. The film does show Eatonville as the first Black township, as does the book. Hurston was an anthropologist, so this detail was important. Unfortunately, it does not tie into Janier’s character in the film. Janie is sustained by people in her life. The film only hints at this. The book makes Janie needing a sense of community blatant.
The film does not emphasize Janier’s self-reflection. She says, There’s two things everybody got to find out for themselves: they got to find out about love, and they got to find out about living (Martin). The novels symbols are minimized in the film. The pear tree is replaced with water. The mule, signifying the burden women must carry, is absent. Nanny said Black women are de mule uh de world (Hurston 14). The mule emblem leaves the narrative lacking. Removing these figures from the film negates part of Janier’s personal journey.
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