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Racism in the Reviers: the Novel and Film Version

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Racism in The Reviers: The Novel and Film Version

In 1962, William Faulkner produced his last novel The Reivers. The novel is set, like many of his other novels, in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. Faulkner places this fictional county in the Southern state of Missisippi. The time is also set in the early nineteenth century so the themes of the book include racism and prejudices, since these were issues in the South during this time frame. In 1969, the film production of The Reivers directed by Mark Rydell was released, which basically follows the plot of the book. A major difference in the movie is the deletion and the played-down scenes where racism is apparent in the book. Another difference is the development of the black characters and the relationships among and with the other races is not strong in the movie. Therefore the film version of The Reivers does not capture the themes of racism like the book and is a watered-down version of William Faulkner's novel.

In the very beginning of the novel, Faulkner sets the tone for the racial tension when Boon tries to shoot the other black hand who he has had a run-in with, misses and instead hits a black woman near the scene. When the two are forced to face the judge, Ludus tells Boon that he is "norrer-headed", in which Boon replies, "Me, a white man, have got to stand here and let a damn mule-wrestling nigger either criticize my private tail, or state before five public witnesses that I aint got any sense".(16) This response shows the contempt that Boon has towards the black race. Then both endure the same punishment although Boon, who is a white man, has in fact shot someone with a gun while Ludus, the black man, has done no physical harm to anyone. Faulkner clearly sets the racial attitude of his fictional Yoknapatawpha County since this demonstrates the contempt towards and the violence against blacks that is accepted of the time. On the other hand, the movie already opens up to the fact that the grandfather has bought a car and completely deletes the confrontation between Boon and Ludus. Only later does the movie produce the first scene of racial conflict when after Ned steals the car, Boon chases after him, in which Boon does not even shoot him, and they are both seen by the judge. Right away, the movie does not produce the clear tone of the acceptable violence since the scene was altered and no black man was physically hurt. While the only major scene revealing racism involves the Sheriff in the movie, the book reveals many scenes of racial tension between the black and white characters.

Another issue that is left out in the movie is the development of the black characters. In the book, Faulkner reveals the strong relationship that Uncle Parsham, a black man, and the main character, the young white boy, Lucius develop. Faulkner then displays Parsham to be an honorable man and when he can do nothing when the Sherriff is bothering the prostitute Corrie, even though he is concerned, readers are presented with the recurrent theme of the limitations of blacks during that day. The movie does not develop the character of Uncle Parsham for viewers to capture the sense of the honorable black man versus the evil white police officer of the day, embodied by the Sherriff.

While the movie shows Ned slightly discriminated throughout, it never reveals Ned's true intentions of buying the horse, which makes viewers not understand the theme of race in the movie to the extent that Faulkner was demonstrating in the book.



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