Many good novels in the past have had films produced about their storyline. However, producers often modify the plot, change the characters and introduce new events and ideas to try and make the film more appealing to viewers. As a result the novel Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian has been reproduced in the 1998 classic called Good Night Mr Tom starring John Thaw and Nick Robinson. This essay will explore the differences between the book and the film as well as focussing on whether the film has captured the characters of Tom and Will representing them as the novel intended.
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The novel Goodnight Mr Tom by Michelle Magorian is set in Little Weirworld a small town near London, England. The novel was set during World War Two while The Blitz was occurring. This was where the Germans were bombing London, and everyone was instructed to erect black out curtains. Both the novel and film portrays the story of a young boy called William Beech who is sent to live with an old man called Tom Oakley.
In the novel William is depicted as a shy, troubled, young boy, around the age of 9, who is beaten by his abusive, single mother. His mother believes he is a selfish boy. William does not talk much and has been taught to never ask questions. He is “assigned” to old Mr Tom Oakley, a tough widower who lost his young wife and small son many years ago. William finds it difficult at first to communicate and live in the village with many strangers. “No one had ever said they liked him. He had always excepted no one did.”(Chap 6) He vomits from excitement and wets the bed nightly, often fearful he would be in trouble. Mr Tom struggles to reach out to poor Willie, realising he has never been taught to read and write. Tom soon discovered that William is a very talented artist who loves to draw. As William feels more comfortable he meets a friend at the post office named Zacharias Wrench, eventually with other friends they form a group where they come together and write a newspaper. Gradually Mr. Tom’s kindness and encouragement rises above Willie’s fears, and he becomes a happy, normal boy who loves his carer and friend dearly.
In the film the character of William is very similar to the novels portrayal, although he doesn’t seem as weak or frightened. Both the film and the novel allow the readers or viewers to witness the immense changes in William in the way he acts compared to the beginning of the film or novel. Novels are able to explain what goes on in a character’s mind, but films often only show what can be seen and heard, thus we learn about William from the novel than the film. However even though the film did not describe William as much, it gives a fair representation of the character William.
The relationship between Mr Tom and William is central to the film and the novel. However, the limited time frame of the film does not allow for this relationship to be presented with as much detail as the novel. Mr. Tom has a reputation for being unkind and harsh, but the reader soon learns he is withdrawn because he is grieving for his deceased wife and child. While Mr Tom is a stern, old, grumpy man at first, he turns into a lovely, caring man with feelings for his new found child and friend William. Chapter one describes Mr Tom as “Well into his sixties, a healthy, robust, stockily built man with a head of thick white hair.” Mr. Tom always let William be himself, loved him for who he was, and tried desperately to communicate this to him. Mr Tom lives alone in a small house, loves to garden and has a dog called Sam. When William first arrives at his new house, afraid of the barking dog Will attempts to beat Sam. Mr Tom grabs the stick and stops him. Will had been taught that dogs were the devil. Mr Tom struggles to reach out to poor Willie, giving him his first birthday party, taking him fishing and encouraging him to draw. Together they form a trusted friendship enough for Mr Tom to rescue him from London during the bombing. While Mr Tom has been very good for William, this has enabled Mr Tom to also move on and heal from his past loss.
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While the film captures the nicer side of Tom it doesn’t give a fair representation of his tougher side. Both the film and the novel give minimal insight into his past family relationships. The film shows Mr Tom being sad and visiting the grave of his Wife and Son every morning, thus capturing his loneliness and grief, this has been shown better in the film than the novel. While the novel can’t describe everything it does capture the characters feelings, whereas the film can’t include everything in the short space of viewing time. However the film shows good visual representations of Tom an William
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