The Main Differences in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and the Emma Thompson/Ang Lee film of the same name.

All scholars and literature critiques acknowledge the historical value of Jane Austen’s novels. They are filled with realism and “the air” of the time. These days, Jane Austen is recognized being among the best English novelists. Her novels head the list of literary works adapted into the movies.

Sense and Sensibility is the first novel by the author which was adopted for several times. The most claimed adaptation was created in 1995 by Ang Lee and Emma Thompson. The film stars such actors as Kate Winslet Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as Elinor Dashwood.

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As Sue Parrill mentions, “one of the best results of the new films is that they have inspired discussion of both the novels and the films, and discussion keeps a novelist alive” (8). Indeed, the screen version of the book is the author’s interpretation of characters, events and themes of the literary work. Thus, there are many differences in characters, settings, plot and techniques between Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and the Emma Thompson/Ang Lee film.

“Translations from page to screen are always problematic, and the creative screenwriter and director want to present their own interpretation” (Stone n. p.). However, those differences “made their job” and the worst (as it is considered by many literature critiques) novel became the best movie which got Oscar.

The main difference between the film and the book is that the film is focused on the relationships between sisters than in their romantic stories. The characters of the film are more developed that those of the book. Thought the screenwriter Emma Thompson managed to preserve the spirit of the book and the time historic period and its moral standards as they are depicted in the movie.

Thus, the differences can be seen at the very beginning on the film. At the beginning of the film, we see that Mrs. Jennings lives with her son-in-law and Lady Middleton, Sir John Middleton’s wife is dead and the movie does not include them, though, they play an important role in the book. Furthermore, the film does not depict such a character as Anne Steele, who is Lucy Steele’s sister. The role of this character is also enormous in the book, as it is she who betrayed to Fanny the engagement of Lucy and Edward.

The character of Hugh Grand has suffered great changes in the adaptation. In the beginning, he is established as a good person, though, this was not in the book. Another major difference is that the girls (Elinor and Marianne) are older in the film. Elinor is 19 and Marianne is 16 in the book, but in the film, Elinor is 27 and Marianne is 19.

This change was made to make the film more “understandable” for the modern audience. Indeed, it would be rather hard for a contemporary person to believe that a man in his mid thirties could fall in love with a nineteen year old girl. The final scene (the marriage between Marianne and Colonel) is also interpreted. In the book, it is depicted as the future event or “what is noing to happen after the story”, and in the film, it is taken as a happy end.

Thus, all the differences between the book and the movie have a great meaning. First of all, they are essential for the understanding of the story and its idea by contemporary audience, second, they show the screenwriter’s interpretation of the book, third, they are necessary to make the film interesting as adaptation of the book into the movie is a hard job indeed.

Works Cited

Parrill, Sue. Jane Austen on Film and Television: A Critical Study of the Adaptations. Jefferson: McFarland, 2002.

Stone, Alan A. Sense and Sensibility: Jane Austen’s Funniest book; Emma Thompson’s Greatest Triumph. Web. 7 March. 2011.


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