Top Ten Favorite Film Adaptations of Books

When it comes to blogging memes, I don’t follow any consistently, but I like jumping in when I like the topic (not to mention, when I’ve got the time!). It’s rare that I post on a Tuesday, but Alison Doherty at Hardcovers and Heroines inspired me to discuss my favorite movie adaptations of books.

Without further ado! In order from good to greatest:

  • Fight Club, based on the book by Chuck Palahnuik

I was surprised to find out that Daniel Day-Lewis starred in two of these films…but then again, I shouldn’t be because he’s an amazing actor! So which movies would you add to your list?

If you’d like to follow this Top Ten meme, check out The Broke and The Bookish!

High School Hysteria: Salem Witch Trials 2.0?

Thera Sanchez at right suffers from strange symptoms (Image via Slate)

A couple days ago I reviewed Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, his play about the Salem Witch Trials. If you’ve been reading the news lately, you know that this story fits right in with the mass hysteria case at a New York high school. According to Slate, it all started when 16-year-old Lori Brownell began experiencing Tourette’s-like symptoms, such as twitching, clapping, and stuttering, after passing out from a rock concert last summer. Since then, 14 other students (mostly female) have shown similar symptoms.

While many people have offered reasons for this mystery–pollution, poisoning, etc.–none seem to hold any weight. Most experts have deemed this particular breakout an instance of conversion disorder, or mass hysteria. Slate also discusses many similar cases over time, including the Salem Witch Trials.

Unlike most people, I have actually experienced the effects of mass hysteria when I was in school. In about fifth grade, a popular girl started telling the class that she had multiple personalities. She named the spirits in her head, and had conversations with them. Because she had influence, other girls began developing schizophrenia too.

Pretty soon, this whole debacle escalated into a bunch of girls (including me, alas) doing acts of “witchcraft.” Needless to say, mob mentality got to us, and it got out of hand. We were sent to the principal’s office and essentially told to knock it off. And from what I remember, that was the last any of us tried that nonsense again.

My point is that I completely believe that these symptoms are all in the students’ heads. I’m not a doctor, but I watched two of the girls on “The Today Show” and they seemed to have no problem talking to Ann Curry. They even admitted that their symptoms have gotten better with time. Mass hysteria seems the only reasonable explanation.

Again, I’m not a superstitious person at all, so I’m sorry if I sound harsh. I think that these girls are no different than me or my classmates when we were ten, or even the girls of Salem. We were all trying to get attention and bring excitement into our lives.

I hope for their sake that they enjoy their 15 minutes of fame (Brownell even uploads YouTube videos about her tics), and then go about their days, because if any money is spent or lawsuits brought up for their alleged lying, we’re just as gullible as the citizens of Salem.

So what do you think? Is witchcraft afoot, or are these girls playing a practical joke?

Masterpiece Monday (Delayed): The Crucible

Cover of "The Crucible"

Image via Amazon

Rating: 4 out of 5

So sorry I didn’t blog yesterday, but I’ve been so busy attending school, working, and learning Japanese. I won’t probably post as frequently this semester. I’ll try to continue with Masterpiece Monday the best I can, and hopefully I’ll post one more time a week. I’ve been getting a steady increase of traffic since I started my blog, so as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing!

Anyways, this past weekend I taught another SAT class, and one of the masterpieces we discussed was The Crucible, a play written by Arthur Miller in 1952. This play revolved around a group of girls who had been accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.

17-year-old Abigail Williams is the devious perpetrator behind this whole fiasco: she was a maid for the Proctor family and had an affair with husband John. Believing that John loves her, not his wife Elizabeth, Abigail is determined to have Elizabeth executed for witchcraft. Unfortunately, a bunch of other people are dragged into her plans, including John’s friend Giles Corey who is pressed to death with stones.

Most people who have read this play know that it’s an allegory for McCarthyism, since Miller himself was questioned for allegedly being a communist after The Crucible was performed. Many of Miller’s colleagues were also accused, including his close friend and director of his play Death of a Salesman, Elia Kazan.

What I love about The Crucible is the timelessness of its themes. Lives can be ruined because of rumors, which is why this is a great play to read in high school. No one knows gossip like teenage girls, so The Crucible offers a perfect opportunity for teachers to caution their students about the consequences of all that “he said, she said.”

I also appreciated Miller’s devotion to his research. He traveled to Salem to write, and used actual figures during the trials, such as Giles Corey. In addition, the play’s Cold War allegory provides two history lessons in one piece of literature. Success!

The only con to The Crucible is that even though it narrates events from hundreds of years ago, it’s a tragic reminder that people still believe in supernatural notions like witchcraft, possession, and exorcism. How many people have committed horrendous crimes and justified their actions by claiming that the devil made them do it? Whether they’re fundamentalist or mentally ill, this finger-pointing to invisible spirits is extremely dangerous. And if you argue that these incidents are few and far between, note that 20% of Americans still believe in witches (Gallup 2005). Clearly, religious paranoia exists over 300 years after the Salem Witch Trials.

I highly recommend this play, as well as the 1996 film with Daniel Day-Lewis as John Proctor and Winona Ryder as Abigail. Hopefully, I’ll be able to read more of Miller’s work this year, as he deservedly holds the title of one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century.

Favorite Quote: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”