In the movie and the short story, “The Devil and Daniel Webster”, written byStephen Vincent Benet, there is illustrated the battle between the forces ofgood and evil. Although the story allows the reader to mentally picture thescenes and the movie does the depicting for the viewer, there are severalsimilarities in each script. Some of these similarities are the way thecharacters are depicted and the final scene. There are several incongruousscenes between the short story and the way the movie unfolds. The differencesare the amount of time that is spent on the character development, also thereare some scenes added into the movie such as the harvest dance and the reminderof the contract. There are three main characters in this short story/movie. Theyare Scratch, Daniel Webster, and Jabez Stone.
The actors picked for the rolesfit almost perfectly to the descriptions of the characters in the short story.Scratch is described as a ” soft-spoken, dark-dressed stranger..
.were filed to a point”. As shown in the movie the actor was also avery darkly clad man. He also had a very soft, hypnotic voice and whenever hesmiled his teeth were very shiny and pointy. The man described as “the biggestman in the country..
.when he stood up to speak, stars and stripes came right outof the sky…and when he argued a case, he could turn on the harps of theblessed and the shaking of the earth underground” was Daniel Webster. In themovie the actor who filed his role was a very big man with a powerful voice. Thelast character, Jabez Stone, wasnt given a very active role in the shortstory, but he was described as ” an unlucky man..
.he had a good wife andchildren, but the more he had the less there was to feed them.” In the movieJabez is seen more throughout the unfolding of the tale and his family life wasa little different. He had only one child and that was after the contract withthe devil was made. The ending to the short story took place in Jabezs barnand consisted of a jury filled with the ruthless dead. This was also how themovie was played out.
Even the closing speech that Daniel made wasnt toldword for word in the short story, but the way it was spoken in the movie seemedto sum up the way it was supposed to be in the short story. It had the sameaffect because it made ” the glitter be gone from the eyes of the judge andjury, and, for the moment, they were men again, and knew they were men.” Theonly difference in the movie that I didnt like as much was that the Devildidnt seem as intimidated by Daniel Webster as he did in the short story.
Hejust laughed at Daniel and told him hed get him in the presidency race. Thereare even more differences between the scripts then there are similarities. Thefirst of these is the way the characters are depicted. I already pointed outthat Jabez had a bigger role in the movie and that he only had one child. Hiswife, her mother, the neighboring farmers and the housekeeper were also givenmore substantial roles in the movie. His wife, Mary, was there to dote on himand also to show her support for him after all the farmers had turned on him.Her mother and the farmers, who werent even mentioned in the short story,were there to act as Jabezs conscious.
The mother always seemed to appearafter something bad happened. The farmers were there at first to get him tojoin the Populist movement and the Farmers Guild. When he refused that andtook the devils offer all he would do was gloat. They eventually turned onhim, this is different in the short story because in it they were very fond ofhim and even wanted him to run for state senate. The housekeeper was also arounda lot and for some reason after the baby is born she changes into Belle, a veryseductive, young women. This is one thing about the movie that I didnt likebecause it distracted from the whole idea of the contract he made. In the movieJabez moves into a new home where he hosts a harvest dance. During this scene hepushes his wife away and Daniel comes to take her and their son.
Also in thisscene Mr. Stevens contract is up and Scratch turns him into a moth and placeshim in the box. I liked how the interaction between the Devil and Jabezoccurred, but I thought the scene with Mr. Stevens swirling around and finallycollapsing was a little too much. He should have just been struck dead. That iswhy I do like the one scene where the Devil after Making the contract with Jabezwrites the termination date in the trunk of the tree so as to remind Jabez everyday.
Also the scene with Jabez trying to cut down the tree as to break thecontract was very effective. Overall the way the director decided to interpretthe short story was not the same as I did while I was reading it. For the mostpart he tried to stick with the script, but with the scenes he tried to changethey didnt seem as effective. However the scenes he decided to add and thecharacters he expanded on were a great choice and brought the story alive.