Page 130

2019

NORTH CAROLINA L I T E R A R Y RE V I E W

COURTESY OF DANIEL WALLACE

130

COLUMBIA PICTURES, ©2003

Watch the funeral scene in which William realizes that not everyone in his father’s stories is fictitious.

COLUMBIA PICTURES, ©2003

Watch the final scene, in which William’s son tells his friends one of his grandfather’s stories.

COLUMBIA PICTURES, ©2003

Watch a scene between William’s wife, Josephine, and Edward as she listens to one of his stories.

ABOVE Daniel Wallace with Ada and Arlene

Tai, who played conjoined twins Ping and Jing in Big Fish

of his father’s life, the William in the film still has doubts, and so the filmmakers include another scene – the funeral. Wallace’s novel ends with Edward’s transformation into a fish and escape into the river, but the filmmakers felt they must reconcile the man with the stories in order to satisfy William’s need for truth, so at Edward’s funeral, characters from his stories show up, regaling each other with memories of Edward’s exploits. It becomes clear that some of the stories are true – though some, it appears, are exaggerated: the conjoined twins in one of his stories are actually identical twins, and the “giant” is not as tall as Edward claimed. But enough truth exists to make William believe in his father and finally accept him fully. Such a scene is not necessary in the novel: William has always believed in the magic of his father’s stories. As a final stamp of belief in his father, the filmmakers include one last scene: it is a few years later, and William’s son is telling his friends one of his grandfather’s tall tales, which obviously William has passed on to him. When the friends show incredulity, William’s son turns to him for reassurance that the story is true, and William answers, “Pretty much!” This brings up another difference between the novel and film: no mention is made in the novel of a pregnant wife in William’s life, but in the film, this plot device plays a significant role. Tired and disgusted by his father’s stories, William is no longer a viable audience for the retelling of the tales, so scene after scene is depicted of Edward telling the stories to William’s wife, played by Marion Cotillard. She listens raptly and laughs at the right times. She encourages him to tell her more and is a willing audience for Edward, whereas in the novel, William plays this role himself. Perhaps in the Hollywood version, it was necessary to create a new listener for the tales. Perhaps William’s wife plays a role that allows Edward to tell his own jokes and stories rather than having an over-abundance of voice-overs in the film. Perhaps, since they had decided that in the film William would be cynical towards his father, it was necessary to have a believer who sees the magic in the stories.

KAREN BALTIMORE designed this essay and the poetry in this issue. She has been designing for NCLR since 2013 when she was a student of NCLR Art Director Dana Lovelace at Meredith College in Raleigh, where she is now teaching. Find other samples of her work and contact information for your design needs on her website.

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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