Tag Archives: Dickens

The Morality of Adaptations

24 Jul

I went to lecture a few months ago. Optionally. Yes, I am that cool.

But honestly, it was good. As part of the celebrations for the bicentennial of the birth of Charles Dickens, the ESU (English Speaking Union) held a “Great Dickens Debate”, which involved 2 lectures and then 2 debates based on those lectures afterwards.

The one that stuck in my mind was the debate on adaptations-whether they’re morally right, what the “allowable” level of change to an original source is, etc. I was put on the side arguing for them-an argument which involved many references to Sherlock, and some mention of how Shakespeare took nearly all of his stories from somewhere.

The reason that I’m reflecting on this now is mainly that next year, for A Level English Literature Coursework, I’m doing Victorian Literature. I made a start on it in about May, and so far I’ve read Villette, and half of North and South (I love Victorian Literature, so I’ve already read a few on the book list, luckily). But it is taking me a long time. Really long; I always have about 5 books on the go but I feel as though I’ve had some of these on the burner for years already. It’s been my experience that you have to work your way into some of them (no jokes, please), and wait for them to bite you (that one you can have) but it’s getting ridiculous.

And so my mind, trained in technology to find a shortcut for everything, thought-why not just watch the adaptations? I mean, they’ll give you a good picture of the book, and be considerably quicker than reading it. At least, some, anyway-I’m not sure how many years I’d need for the 2005 Bleak House. But it won’t be the same. And I know it won’t be the same. For example, at Christmas I watched Great Expectations, the BBC adaptation. And it was brilliant-but it didn’t touch the brilliance of the book. I realise they had to cut it down for TV, but there were bits I would have loved to see in it. Mainly Biddy. And Pip was too handsome (if such a thing can be). It was fantastic-but I’m glad I read the book as well.

Anyone else ave an opinion on adaptations, Dickens or not? (Although having said that, a lot of them do seem to be Dickens…good thing?)

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