Natalie Haynes: And all the adaptations lived happily ever after...

The thing is...

Share
Related Topics

The thing is that if you want your literary classics to be perfect and unadulterated, you should get them off your pristine bookshelves, never open the spine more than a tiny bit, and make sure you have a nice bookmark. No corner-creasing as you cram it back in your bag and leap off a train, or the ghost of books-yet-to-come will haunt you when the bell tolls one.

And what you especially shouldn't do is watch any adaptation of them at all, in any medium. By definition, an adaptation involves changing the thing it's based on. And if you believe that Dickens, Trollope or whoever is completely perfect as he is, you can't fail to be disappointed by the choices a writer or director makes when adapting it. This is, however, an asinine attitude to have towards a TV show if you actually intend to watch it.

When the BBC revealed that it had taken liberties with the ending of its new Great Expectations adaptation, which airs on 27 December, it was accused of every kind of philistinism. Bad enough that it had cast the altogether minxy Gillian Anderson (of X-Files fame) to play Miss Havisham, even though she's only 43. Purists couldn't have been more shocked if the BBC'd cast ET to play Magwitch.

But the prospect of a new ending is even worse, it seems, in spite of the fact that Dickens himself wrote two endings, so presumably felt rather less reverential about his work than his most swivel-eyed fans do. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, the historical adviser to the BBC for its new version, has no problem with the changes: "I think Dickens is strong enough to withstand anything we do to him. He has a chameleon-like ability to adapt to changing circumstances."

And that, of course, is the truth of the matter. Dickens, like Austen, wrote wonderful stories which work pretty much whatever you chuck at them. You can adapt them to be as close to the original as possible, or you can transport them to a contemporary setting, and they will work beautifully either way. Clueless is at least as good a film as the Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma, and the fact that Miss Wodehouse is in an empire-line frock while Cher strides through a shopping mall in a mini-skirt is neither here nor there.

A Christmas Carol has been adapted dozens of times and never better than by the Muppets. Surely if a story can withstand Bob and Mrs Cratchit being played by a frog and a pig, it can withstand anything. So let's raise our expectations and stop being such scrooges.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Year 5 Primary Teaching positionRands...

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone