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Flashbacks: Echoes of Past Issues

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Finney, counters his criticism with “Everybody loves that story!” William replies bitterly, “I don’t love that story – not anymore, not after a thousand times. . . . For one night in your entire life, the universe did not revolve around Edward Bloom.” William’s voice-over then tells us, “After that night I didn’t speak to my father again for three years.”10 In Lundberg’s interview with Wallace, the author quotes from an email exchange with the playwright John August, who admits the difference in the book-William and the film-William:

COLUMBIA PICTURES, ©2003

I know a lot of people feel that the Will character in the book is mythologizing his father, building him up as something he never claimed to be. It’s true that the movie plays Will’s frustration with his father’s tales more strongly. But I think that it’s mostly coming from the change in narrator perspective. The book has a single narrator – Will – through which all tales are told, while the movie says the stories are the stories regardless of the teller. I would argue, however, that there is more significance to the change than August seems to realize. In the novel, there is a sense that William believes his father’s stories – at least he wants to believe them. In the movie, William resists even the possibility that some of the stories might be true but just exaggerated. When Dr. Bennett tells William the true story of his birth – that his father was away on business, and he was born early and therefore Edward missed his birth – the doctor contrasts this version with Edward’s fanciful one and says, “I suppose if I had to choose between the true version and an elaborate one involving a fish and a wedding ring, I might choose the fancy version.” William is not convinced, however, and claims he rather likes the factual account. He sets the goal of finding out just what is real and what is a lie, and his harshness with his father continues throughout his forced interrogations of Edward. He tells his father, “I want to know the true versions of things,” and compares his father’s character to an iceberg: “I have no idea who you are,” William tells Edward. “You tell lies” and “I felt a fool to have trusted you.” Edward is somewhat confused by his son’s aggressiveness and asks, “Who do you want me to be?” He tells his son that he has been only himself from the beginning of his life, and that he can offer him “ We were like strangers nothing else. His father who knew each other even goes so far as to compare his own storyvery well.”—Big Fish telling to his son’s journalism career: “We’re storytellers, both of us. I speak mine out; you write yours down.” But William is resolute in his disbelief. He bemoans his situation in a voice-over: “We were like strangers who knew each other very well.”

Watch Dr. Bennett tell William the true story of his birth.

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Watch William and Edward argue about truth and trust.

10

Big Fish, adapt. of novel by Daniel Wallace, Dir. Tim Burton, Perf. Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, and Jessica Lange (Columbia Pictures, 2003).

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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