Compared to the original novel, what is the level of adaptation of the movie “The Newspaper Reader”?


I read the fictional version of The Reader before seeing the Tom Hanks movie, and I’ve been reading it ever since.

The compelling fictional narrative, free, self-contained and self-contained, made me look forward to the film version more and more.

The story intrigued me with 10-year-old Jo Hanne. Her parents were killed on the spot by the Kaohwa Indians when her family was attacked at the age of 6. The attackers took her captive and raised her until she was 10, but the clan traded her to the whites knowing that taking in a white child would bring in the cavalry. Who could play such a child in such a context?

“The Newspaper Reader” is Captain Kidd’s adventure to take Joanna back to her next of kin’s home, earning a living by reading newspapers along the way,

The Indians have to be watched out for, the omnipresent outlaws must be fought, and the public opinion and customs of North Texas in a particular time period must be accounted for

. Hanks, a comedian, has made a smooth transition to playing 20th century tough guys, but this is an 1870s Western, so can he really pull it off?

Next, I’ll examine how well the film adaptation of “The Reader” compares to the original novel?

A film adaptation that deviates from the original novel to protect investment

They just brought her in and tried to sell her for the value of 15 Hudson four-threaded blankets and a set of silver flatware, and ended up with four silver coins that they would melt down to make hand refinements. It was the people of Apery Crow who brought her here …… for more than a full kilometer to hear her cry out alone.

Had I not read the book first, I would not have felt the depth of Johanna’s separation from the Keaowa tribe: at age 6, she was separated from her biological parents by death, and at age 10, she was separated from her adoptive parents by birth. On the movie screen, all I saw was a dirty, nervous blonde girl, not the feisty, resilient, articulate and confident Joanna from the book.

She can only rely on Captain Kidd in this world, and yet, why should she trust him?


The movie “The Newspaper Reader” dramatically adapts the plot of the original.

The original says that Captain Kidd was reading the newspaper when he met his old friend Britt, a freed black man who had been entrusted by Aunt Johanna, his uncle, to bring the girl back to her home 400 miles away, only to have her run away several times. He was too difficult to handle, and also speculated that the distance was too great to be bothered, so he transferred the federal commission to Captain Kidd, and the 50 gold coin difference was simply handed over; he had worked with the Captain in the army in the past, and knew him as a man, and thought he was an old man and would not behave badly with the girl.


Remember, this is an American movie, and the production must always be careful not to get into ethnic issues

. If the film shows black people shying away from blame, they could be accused of racism. So, the film begins with the original messenger being attacked and killed, and Captain Kidd is passing by and meets the girl and sees the order to take her to a nearby town to see the authorities, who tell him that the Indian officer will not be back until three months later and advise him that he might as well take the girl back to her next of kin.

That’s when the movie conveniently begins. The scenery along the way is magnificent, but the screenwriters forget the real character of the original, most importantly the girl’s intimate relationship with nature. The movie arranges for the girl to make herbal medicine from tree bark and put it on the horse’s injured body, and nothing else. The audience sees the girl initially refusing to ride in the carriage, preferring to walk aside the carriage, only to feel that she is so silly, but will not feel that she did not grow up in a carriage civilization, walking is more real to her, and may be the way she is used to migrate for many years.

The movie audience sees her hating the ladylike clothes of the city and having to be forced to wear them, and the original story specifies the inconveniences of dressing like this, such as the heavy mud on the hem of her dress on a rainy day.

The film is told from the perspective of the so-called “civilized” people, while the original tends to be told from the point of view of the girl’s upbringing.

So there’s a passage in the original where the girl takes a bath in the river, which the Indian culture takes for granted, but is chased by the local good women as if she were one of those women, which of course the movie wouldn’t dare to do because it would become a special class.

The movie omits too many details from the original, and the essence is in the details. For example, how Captain Kidd taught the girl to use a gun and discovered that she was already used to fighting because the Kiowa Indians were originally a warlike people. In the movie, when the girl and Captain Kidd joined forces against the white human traffickers, the girl’s resourceful responses were abrupt. In the original, she alone pries open a boulder and rolls it down, killing one person. In the movie, because of the culture of white culture, children are not allowed to kill adults, so they are arranged as Captain Kidd to help, and the two roll the boulder together.


Many of the film’s decision-makers’ visits were, of course, to protect their investment.

After all, “The Newspaper Reader” is a production with a budget of more than $38 million, a slight delay will immediately affect the box office, and the content must be “correct” in every aspect and not cause social controversy before it can be seen on the screen. In contrast, the original author Giles is a simple motive, she just want to use the special encounter of newspaper readers to recreate the community relations in this period of Texas history.

In one of the novel’s most heartbreaking passages, the girl suddenly escapes one night and stands on the red sandstone by the river in the pouring rain, shouting to the migrating band of Indians on the other side. But these were not her people, and they did not understand the Keawah language. Suspecting that she had bad intentions, they shot at her, and it was only with great difficulty that Captain Kidd pulled her back. Such an important turning point happened in the night,

So the director insisted on shooting in low light and cutting the scene where the Indian shoots

and there was no explanation of why the girl was in a hurry to get help, so the audience was left in the dark.

And what was not in the original book, the movie adds, for exaggerated effect, a scene in which they encounter a tornado on the way and the girl meets her people and brings back a horse they gave her for Captain Kidd. Such a fantasy, how to stand up to the original? And how can it escape the critical eye?

The multiple limits of cinema

American Western novels have hardly ever been published in Chinese in the past,

Perhaps it is thanks to the movie “The Reader” that the publisher’s interest was piqued, allowing us to see a different face of American pioneering history.

For almost a century, Hollywood has been too deeply rooted in the American West to be known as, say, John Ford’s “The Searchers” (1950), “The Two Tigers” (1962), Howard Hawks’ “The Dragon” (1959), John Huston’s “The Golden Sands” (1948), or George Stevens’ “The Wild and the Beautiful” (1953). The Awareness and Atmosphere provided by such superb cards as The Man from the Wilderness (1953).


Even Tom Hanks glorifies the protagonist of “The Reader” too much.

In the original, he was in his seventies, lean and slow, while Tom Hanks, despite his graying hair and beard, was still physically strong and powerful. The original Captain Kidd experienced two wars: the Anglo-American War and the Mexican-American War, the operation of the newspaper was destroyed in the war, his wife had died, the marriage of his two daughters was also affected by the war, he read the newspaper for a living, in fact, only in the remaining life of good service to the world’s residual thoughts. He believes that people’s vision should go beyond the environment they are in and see if there are other possibilities for human survival and development. The film “The Newspaper Reader” is not a film that you can see.

It could be argued that Hollywood is just taking advantage of the sales success of the original The Man Who Read Newspapers to try to convince audiences that this is an alternative Western. If you like westerns, or if you like Tom Hanks, come see how he plays a western character, you’re guaranteed not to be disappointed. If westerns disappoint you, at least Hanks will never disappoint you.


Instead, it’s the relationships between the people in the story that the original authors want you to pay attention to.

The black man who was to bring the girl to his next of kin trusted him with the girl because he had fought with Captain Kidd; Captain Kidd in turn entrusted her to a woman, Doris, who, having lived through the Irish potato famine and having seen Johanna, even wanted to take her in and raise her for a time, with this sigh:

She’s like a doll in herself, not real and not fake at the same time, I hope you know what I mean. You can dress her up in any costume you want, but she’s still just as strange because she’s lived through two lives.

(After two disillusionments) she wants to ask, ‘Where is the cornerstone of my life?’ …… Their lives (became) incomplete and half-finished, lost forever.

In the original, Captain Kidd and Johanna’s trusting relationship comes from tolerating and learning from each other, and facing the crosscurrents before them together. In the movie, with a quick cut of a scene, the audience is intimidated by the sound and light, the delicate interactions between people are gone, and the most we know is a western story,

The inability to feel the trials and dangers of a multi-ethnic nation of people and events

It took two centuries to grow up in such a stormy place.

After years of producing Aboriginal radio programs in Canada, the author of The Newspaper Reader returned to Texas and wrote a number of locally-inspired novels and sagas. If you want to, you can meet history and experience the power it gives you for the future.


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