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A False Translation

In: English and Literature

Submitted By bigb888999
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One of the most common types of a conversion is the change from one language to another, otherwise known as a translation. I believe that the common goal of a translation is to change the way an idea is formatted while still being able to have the idea to keep the same essence and spirit of the original copy. The same can be said for a translation of languages as to the translation from a novel to a movie. Although the format has been changed, the goal is to keep and convey the original message in a different medium. What a translation allows is the spread of different ideas to a wider and broader audience base that may not have been able to experience the idea otherwise. In the case of the novel East of Eden by John Steinbeck and the 1952 version of the movie East of Eden I view the movie to be a translation which becomes a broader and somewhat more accessible version of the original story. Even though the movie was created to capitalize on the huge monetary success of the novel, the film makers felt the need to drastically change the film in a way that changes the principal tone and meaning of the story. I feel that the arguments made in the movie are radically different from the ones made in the novel and by my definition, the movie a poor translation of the original novel.
The original novel by Steinbeck had been highly anticipated and when it was release it found high sales while it received mixed reviews from critics and was highly controversial. 1950’s America wasn’t used to seeing an Asian man in such an important and powerful role in their literature. The controversy surrounding the novel gave the film adaptation and opportunity to correct itself in America’s eyes by excluding Lee. The act of excluding Lee, an Asian character who the general audiences were not expecting to see and be such a powerful force in the novel, opens the film up to a wider audience that more people are familiar with seeing. However the absence of Lee in the film creates a ripple effect through ought the film-making process and distorts the themes entirely. The act of white washing the cast is an attempt to appease the audience which detracts from the starkness and the edge that Steinbeck intended the novel to have which I believe is an integral part of the mood the novel has. I believe Steinbeck made the character Lee with the intention of giving his readers a unique view of the world and the film takes away that uniqueness. That is the main reason the novel is not a good translation. Steinbeck intended for the novel to be a stark and somewhat dark novel and the movie does not do this. What the movie instead does is gives the audience a cool young James Dean to root for the duration of the film where he can reconnect to his warm giving mother whom his cold father drove away instead of the conflicted young man with questionable actions from a malformed family. Part of the attractiveness and darkness of the novel is that the reader is never always sure of which character was making correct decisions in their situations. Every character has their own reason for doing things and for the most part they are justified. The novel justifies Cal disobeying his father, his father not showing enough love to Cal, his mother shooting his father and Abra leaving Aron for his brother all at the same time which could leave many readers cross-examining their morals. Steinbeck’s amazing ability to justify each and every character equally adds to the novel and the movies inability detracts from it. The complexity of the morals of the characters in the novel does not transfer over to the movie which is heavily one sided and makes the film not as great as it could have been.
One of the main differences between the novel and the movie is the drastic change in tone. The novel has a much darker tone than the movie. The movie has a higher need to appeal to a wider audience where the novel had almost guaranteed success with the combination of John Steinbeck’s writing and the anticipation leading up to the release of the novel. The lighter change in tone severely affects the character of Cathy. I view Cathy from the novel as a completely different character than Cathy from the movie because their actions prove such. Cathy from the movie is supposed to be the source of all of the bad and evil that Cal has however all of her actions disprove that. Everything she does in the film is positive and is helpful and is only evil in title. The audience’s introduction to Kathy is her trying to keep Cal from ever meeting her and when it is later revealed that she is “evil” it lays down the basis that everything she does is for the good of her children which includes keeping herself away from them. Later when Cal finally does meet her only positivity ultimately comes from his visit. He learns more about himself and gains a greater self-awareness; she is generous enough to give him $5000 for Cal to start his own business for the sole purpose of repairing Cal’s relationship with his father, the man that she hates and tried to kill. Cathy is portrayed to be a loving mother who wants the best for her children but is willing to make the necessary sacrifices to do what is best for them. She is gives freely with her money, wise in her actions, tempered enough to put aside her differences with Adam and made to be a hero in the movie. However the novel offers a completely different coloring of Cath. In the novel Cathy actually is the evil and darkness which Cal says he comes from. Early in the novel the narrator says “I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents…And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be physic or mental monsters born? The face and body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process cause a malformed soul?” When referencing Cathy and how she would live her life. In the novel Cathy is indeed a monster. She kills her parents by setting their house on fire, becomes a prostitute and kills her mistress to take her business, manipulates Joe and her girls and dies the monsters death by killing herself with. The actions of Cathy in the novel create a much darker scene than the one in the novel. I feel that Cathy almost embodies Satan in the novel by being a completely negative and evil force. The movie lacks Cathy’s raw power which negates Steinbeck’s objective of trying to convey to the reader that evil people in the world hide among us and it is difficult to spot them.
East of Eden shows every side of human emotion. The good the bad the dark and the light but it really does a good job of displaying the dark the beauty and hope in East of Eden is because the author dares to explore the darkest rankest tendencies of people; lust, rage, jealously, hatred, cruelty and murder, and yet reminds us that the greatness of man is that we have choice. We can overcome our darkness and choose a different way. I believe the movie East of Eden is a great film, the cinematography especially; however it fails to capture the darkness that the novel had which I why I cannot say it is a true translation of the original.…...

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