The classic, heartfelt novel, The Secret Life of Bees, was written by the New York Times bestselling author, Sue Monk Kidd. The novel was originally published on November 8, 2001 and has since been adapted into a film directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood. Both the novel and the film are narrated by a young, determined fourteen-year-old white girl named Lily Owens. Whilst reading the novel and watching the film, there are several recognizable similarities and differences scattered throughout the two.
Between both the novel and the film there are multiple powerful similarities and differences. However, the number of differences between the novel and the film outweigh the similarities drastically. These differences are what have led to the weaknesses and flaws of the film compared to the novel. In both the novel, The Secret Life of Bees, written by Sue Monk Kidd, and the film, The Secret Life of Bees, directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, the narrator, Lily Owens lives with both her housekeeper, Rosaleen, and abusive father, T. Ray. In both the novel and the film, Lily’s mother passed away while she was only four. The strong themes throughout the novel and the film approach the topics of racism, motherhood, and courage. The concept of bees in both the novel and the film are where the two begin to split in direction. In the novel, the use of bees is loosely ruled as a metaphor for the absence of Lily’s mother. In her bedroom, Lily feels her mother’s presence when a swarm of bees surround her, creating the connection between Lily’s mother and the bees. However, the use of bees in the film was not a metaphor, like the novel, but rather literal information on the keeping of bees, resulting in the lack of depth and message throughout the film.
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There are many fatal differences between the novel and the film that take away from the storyline. For instance, in the novel, Lily has an amazing, powerful connection with August, Zack, and the other girls. Their deep connection seems much more real and strong in the novel compared to the film. Throughout reading the novel, you are given much more important, reliable information, more complex images in your head, and you are able to experience the character’s emotions and feelings more in the novel rather than the film. In the film, there seems to be a rush between the feeling of happiness to the sudden feeling of sadness rather quickly. Whereas in the novel, you are subtly transitioned between moods and emotions between the characters, which gives the novel the advantage with connecting with the audience. When reading the novel, you are able to obtain more depth in Lily’s emotions and thoughts compared to in the film where there is a lack of information of Lily’s feelings and intentions. During the creation of the film, there are several necessary scenes that are missed from the novel.
For example, when Lily and August have severe conversations with one another are essential for the development of their characters and their relationship. Their intricate conversations are used as Lily’s coping mechanism for the mental battles she fought with both herself and T. Ray throughout her life. Also in the novel, T. Ray is portrayed as much more aggressive and violent than he really is in the film where he had more emotions and feelings. Rosaleen is also depicted as much more clumsy and stubborn in the novel whereas in the film she is shown as a soft woman. The endings between the two were rather different and had much more diverse emotions. In the novel, Lily faces T. Ray with the question on whether or not she really is the one who kills her mother. Compared to in the film where she asks if her mother was intent on taking her with her when she left. In the novel, Lily was taken back at the view on the porch, seeing all of her mother’s: Rosaleen, June, and August. This developed a perfect ending for Lily’s story through the loss of one mother and the founding of so many. These mother’s protected Lily as if she were their own child and their powerful, beautify motherhood connection of the perfect story seemed to be lacking in the film.
Through all of the intricate changes between the well-written novel and the film, they took away from the stories overall potential. With the removal of many important, powerful scenes and details form the book, the film was created as if it were an incomplete puzzle, missing several pieces. The changes were most likely removed from the film to allow for a more general, broad theme, rather than complicating the story with many smaller themes, preventing the film audience from becoming too confused with the novel’s storyline.
The process of comparing and contrasting of the novel and the film has allowed for a better understanding of both pieces and their meanings. Although there were several similarities between the novel and the film, there were also many crucial differences between the two which were found throughout the process. These changes from the novel to the film is what caused for the film to lack critical details and key points which are necessary for the success of the film.
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