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Beloved: Demme’s Film vs Morrison’s Novel Term Paper


Movies are used as an integral part of the study of languages and literature because they encourage critical thinking among the students. The comparison of movies to books is essential in concluding a particular work of literature. Analytical strategies are developed after the exploration of matching and varying texts in both the movie and the novel. The adaptations made in films are assessed when gauging their contributions to the overall story in books. This essay is a comparison of the film, Beloved, to its book version by Toni Morrison. The film compares and differs in different aspects with its book version.

Overview of Beloved

The novel is a 1987 chef-d’oeuvre by an American writer called Toni Morrison. The setting of the novel is after the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865. The literary text bears inspiration from the story of Margaret Garner, an African American slave, who arrives at the state of Ohio in efforts to escape slavery in Kentucky (Benshoff 183). Besides, Sethe, a protagonist, plays a crucial role in the novel while Beloved is presumed to be her daughter. In 1998, the novel was adapted into a film that was directed by Jonathan Demme. Oprah Winfrey stars in the movie where she doubles as the producer. Awards of the literature work by Morrison include the Pulitzer Prize for fiction among others.

Similarities between the book and the movie

The novel is characterized by many constant transitions from the past to the present (Higgins 32). Due to setting fluctuations, the various occurrences shift from one location to another. Furthermore, the transitions change the point of view of the involved characters. The movie rhymes with the book by ensuring the incorporation of various flashbacks to match past occurrences. The viewers of the visual displays of the film can note changes in settings through flashbacks.

The representation of the characters is done perfectly well in the film to match whatever is written in the book. The dialogues between the characters and role-taking coincide with the imagination that the readers feel when reading the literary texts. Paul D’s characters of friendliness and intelligence are equally represented in the movie (Beloved). The film confirms Denver’s character by exhibiting characteristics of selfishness, budding maturity, as well as the craving for love. The role of the core character of Beloved is emphasized in the film through various transitions from states of vacant beauty to an angry face and back to the original state (Morrison 13). The sense of the beloved character is also supported through the reincarnation scenarios in the movie that coincide with the description written in the novel. In this regard, the film backs the excellent performances of compelling characters. Oprah Winfrey, Kimberly Elise, Thandie Newton, and Danny Glover demonstrate remarkable representation by imitating the characters of the main characters in the novel.

The film is faithful to the structure of the book. The theme of black stereotyping is deeply rooted in American culture as depicted in the novel. The inferiority of blacks is affiliated with the enslavement of black Americans. They had nothing to live for and Morrison figuratively says, “Like a greedy child it snatched up everything” (81) to indicate how slavery deprived its victims. Although reading the novel provides an optimal opportunity for the readers to employ their imaginations concerning the stereotyping of the blacks, visual scenes in the movie paint a clearer picture of the setting, feelings, and the atmosphere of the characters.

Additionally, the film supports the postulation of the book by incorporating music that backs the actions of various undertakings. The music played in the course of the movie expresses certain qualities that aid in the modification and depiction of onscreen objects and persons. The message enshrined in the novel coincides with scenes and sequences of multiple actions and scenarios. To develop similar imaginations to the audience, the film incorporates music that is essential in developing a favorable atmosphere, illustrating the psychological states of the characters, and developing a sense of continuity. The music also initiates a neutral background alongside sustaining tension in situations where it is deemed mandatory.

Differences between the book and the novel

The book has various supernatural and horror aspects, but most of the haunting scenes are exaggerated in the movie (Anderson 23). For instance, the opening point of the novel comprises images of the Beloved’s headstone. However, the scenario in the movie is noisy and scary to suit the viewers’ imaginations, but the effect differs from that outlined in the novel. In the book, Morrison deploys and controls the ghostly elements by incorporating a flexible and appropriate prose style (Guthrie 45). The view of the ghosts is perceived within the confines of ordinary human activity, and it is provoked by the words of the author. However, the horror in the movie scenes appears to confer immediate shock by being more combustible as compared to the literary spookiness.

Besides, the novel depicts the ghost in the house as a literal hunt. In the film, the horror element components appear divorced from the author’s language because the fantastical occurrences are alienated and they are hollowly melodramatic (Morrison 43). Although the message that the film conveys in the first part depicts horrors associated with slavery, the latter part of the film bears no coincidence to the previous scenes. Nevertheless, the contributions of the movie to horror iconography match the situations of the novel. Denver confesses, “We have a ghost here…” (Beloved).

The plot setting also exhibits significant differences as depicted in both the novel and the film. The alteration of the storyline is inevitable because the movie seeks to compress the events of the entire novel in two hours. Although the plot of the story depicts that Howard and Burglar (Sethe’s boys) escape independently upon attaining thirteen years, the movie shows both escaping together at the same time. The plot of the novel is altered in the video as the complexity of the relationship between Sethe and Paul D is overlooked. In the film, the two do not demonstrate repugnance for each other after the first instance of making love as outlined in the novel (Anderson 43).

The plot of the movie misrepresents Denver in two ways. First, a thin and small actor plays her role, but the novel clearly describes her as a ‘larger woman’ (Morrison 11). Secondly, the dress that Beloved wears upon arrival is black in the film instead of white that the novel outlines. Other elements of the original storyline differ from what is highlighted in the film. For instance, the schoolteacher’s cruelty, the Sweet Homeboys, and their roles, and the book writing that compared slaves to animals are all left out in the novel.

Alterations are also evident in how the characters are depicted in the novel and the film. The relationship between Sethe and the community are dealt with amicably in the novel, but not in the film. The movie concentrates on representing the personal story of Sethe, but not the links with her immediate black community. The film undermines the theme of black society ties during the reconstruction period. After Sethe kills her baby girl, the reaction of the local community during the final reconstruction and redress of the matter is skimmed on the screen. The movie fails because the healing process of Sethe is impossible without involving the complex relations with the entire community. The film also misrepresents Sethe by viewing her as vulnerable yet independent. Paul D tells her, “Your love is too thick, Sethe” (Beloved) to expose her vulnerability. In the book, she is not a likable character, but the movie forces the viewers to win sympathy for her.


The Beloved novel is one of the outstanding works of literature done in America during the late 19th Century. Several similarities and differences are exhibited in both the Beloved book and movie versions. Although it is difficult to express the inner thoughts of the author using images, the movie plays a critical role in building an understanding of the literary text. The roles of several characters in the novel are well played in the film while other elements concerning the plot, setting, and themes are omitted as highlighted in this essay.

Works Cited

Anderson, Melanie. Spectrality in the Novels of Toni Morrison, Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2013. Print.

Beloved. Dir. Jonathan Demme. Burbank, CA: Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 1998. Film.

Benshoff, Harry. “Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present by Robin R. Means Coleman (Review).” Cinema Journal 53.4 (2014): 183-187. Print.

Guthrie, Ricardo. “Oprah Winfrey and the Trauma Drama: What’s So Good About Feeling Bad?” Presenting Oprah Winfrey, Her Films, and African American Literature. Ed. Tara Green. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 45-78. Print.

Higgins, Therese. Religiosity, Cosmology, and Folklore: The African Influence in the Novels of Toni Morrison, Abington: Routledge, 2014. Print.

Morrison, Toni. Beloved, New York: Vintage International, 2004. Print.

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"Beloved: Demme's Film vs Morrison's Novel." IvyPanda, 24 Aug. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/beloved-demmes-film-vs-morrisons-novel/.

1. IvyPanda. "Beloved: Demme's Film vs Morrison's Novel." August 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/beloved-demmes-film-vs-morrisons-novel/.


IvyPanda. "Beloved: Demme's Film vs Morrison's Novel." August 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/beloved-demmes-film-vs-morrisons-novel/.


IvyPanda. 2020. "Beloved: Demme's Film vs Morrison's Novel." August 24, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/beloved-demmes-film-vs-morrisons-novel/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Beloved: Demme's Film vs Morrison's Novel'. 24 August.

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