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One of Stephen King’s most popular novels, and also the shortest of all the numerous written works that he’s had published and received critical acclaim for, is named The Body. Stephen King has said himself that this story is very loosely based on his childhood experiences growing up as the child of a single mother. King often draws inspiration for his stories from his humble upbringing in the 1950s in rural Maine, and The Body is one of the greatest examples of this self-inspired practice used by The Body’s author. This coming of age novel tells the story of a tightly-knit group of four twelve year old boys, who journey along the railroad and into the wilderness with the youthfully brazen intent of finding the corpse of a similarly-aged missing boy that was reported missing from an accompanying community. The Body’s steady relevance in pop culture throughout the years led to its eventual adaptation into a 1986 film by director Rob Reiner, although it was to go by a different title, which is what we now know as Stand By Me. In a similar fashion to its literary predecessor, the film Stand By Me was met with an overwhelmingly positive reception by both critics and moviegoers alike. The movie became an instant classic, achieving massive box office success, and earning multiple Oscar and Golden Globe Award nominations. Although a few critics argue that the film doesn’t measure up to the book in terms of telling the original story accurately and capturing its purposefully emotional tone, I think that Stand By Me superbly delivers the same themes of teenage maturation that Stephen King did in The Body, but in a more entertainment-focused format that’s affable for movie-going viewers to enjoy. Changes take place in various aspects of the story, including its setting, character development, and numerous dialogues that are changed by the film’s director.
As expected in any big-screen envisionment of a famous novel, there are different points of the original story that were drastically altered, thrown out, or newly incorporated into the film adaptation at Rob Reiner’s discretion. Some notable elements of the novel’s story are made completely different in aims to tell a compelling visual story on film, which is seen when in comparing the film and novel. The setting of the film is Castle Rock, Oregon, while in the book the boys’ residence is Castle Rock, Maine. In terms of character development and story-telling, Gordie’s non-existent relationship with his brother that’s made clear to readers by Stephen King is turned into a loving relationship by Rob Reiner, with the film adaptation of Gordie soberly grieving the recent death of his much-admired older brother Denny. Another instance of the original story being altered in the film is the event of both groups’ convergence on the dead body, which in the book results in the older boys’ physical beating of their younger counterparts, and anonymous tip to the police leading to the authorities’ official discovery of Ray Brower’s corpse. In the film, the beating doesn’t take place, and it’s instead Gordie who phones in the news to the authorities, which is of the missing boy’s corpse and its location near the railroad tracks. There is one more extremely important detail that’s different in the book in comparison to the film, and it is a detail that is crucial in the way the book is told by the narrator, who is the older Gordie. In the book, the older Gordie is the only surviving member of his childhood friend group, and much of the book centers around his survivor’s remorse, and ensuing dissemination of minute details that took place during their adventure that could’ve led them to their eventual fate. This heavily-weighed analysis of choices made by the adult Gordie as a result of him grieving for his deceased childhood friends is largely missing as only Chris is said to have passed on by Gordie, but a quote taken from the book allows Rob Reiner to convey Gordie’s grief for his slain childhood friend, although this aspect of the original story is focused on much less, or at all in the movie.
As Gordie types the childhood story onto his computer he reminisces about Chris and recants, “Although I hadn’t seen him in more than ten years, I know I’ll miss him forever?”, showing the character’s real and raw emotional attachment to the childhood friend that he grew up with, even into his adulthood years. In the novel itself, the Gordie who is now an established writer asks readers “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?” showing the emotional tone of the scene that was eventually interpreted into film form.
Overall, the film and novel both compliment each other very well in telling the story of the four young boys who journeyed to see the body of their unfortunately deceased contemporary, by the name of Ray Brower. Authentically capturing the themes of a story that’s been told in literature on film has been a challenge for directors since the creation of motion-picture movies, yet with that being said I believe Rob Reiner beautifully captured the essence of Stephen King’s novel The Body. in his film Stand By Me, which was released four years after.
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