Ben-Hur: Comparison Between the Novel and Film

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Ben-Hur: Comparison Between the Novel and Film

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ film and novel exhibit a number of similarities and differences in plots since the film was adopted from the novel which was the first to be published. The novel authored by Lew Wallace is regarded as “the most influential Christian book of the 19th century.”The story is a built on the adventure of Jewish price known as Judah Ben-Hur who was also a merchant in Jerusalem at the start of the 1st century. Messala, Judah’s good friend from childhood, comes back home with a lot of ambitions as a commanding officer in charge of the Roman legions. With time, it dawns on the duo that they have experienced substantive transformation hence hold varied aspirations and opinions. At the time of military parade, a tile accidentally falls from the roof belonging to Judah’s house and almost hit the Roman governor. Despite Messala knowing that they are innocent, he ends up condemning whole of Ben-Hur family without room for enough trial from which Judah’s sister and mother get imprisoned while Judah sent for life to Roman galleys and family property confiscated. Fortunately, Judah manages to survive and goes back to Jerusalem where he hungrily seeks for revenge against Messala as well as his family redemption. The story of Jesus, coming from the same region, then unfolds running parallel with the narrative. With crucifixion, Ben-Hur comes to a realization that Christ champions for a totally different agenda than revenge hence transform to Christianity. He even then support the new found faith with money he got from inheritance and share about keys to a greater kingdom that exceed any on planet earth.

On the other hand, adoption of the plot omitted some elements in the film. The film features Ben-Hur a wealthy Jew and just as in the novel, a great friend of Messala, a Roman Tribune though portrayed to be at older age. Similarly, after the accident, Messala, full of arrogance and corruption, ensures that Ben-Hurr and his entire family are jailed and separated from each other. The plot takes a different direction when Ben-Hur in line of work went to a Roman warship and on his way; he meets Christ, the son of a carpenter, without his knowledge who gave him water. Once inside the ship, Quintus Arrius, a Roman admiral get impressed by his strength and defiance hence allows him to stay without chains. This later works in his favor when the ship sunk following attackby pirates and Ben-Hur rescues him from drowning. As a result, Arrius takes Ben-Hur as his own son and as years passes by; Ben-Hur grows stronger and emerges to be a victorious chariot-racer. Ultimately, this lead to a climatic competition with Messala in a chariot race which Ben-Hur emerges the winner. Eventually, Ben-Hur gets reunited with his family struck by leprosy and Christ miraculously heals them.

The plots in the both the film and novel presents several points of differences with the changes destined to initiate more immediate drama in the storyline of the film. First, the entire eight books tell a story of “three wise men” who paid Jesus a visit after being born. In the movie, the 3 wise men are depicted with very few details close to being a prologue. Scene one of the movie showing Messala give reference of Jesus and John the Baptist after they had started their legendary actions while in the book, several years pass with either Jesus or John the Baptist begging their public activities. The book does not feature Messala receiving a gift of a horse or even requesting Judah Ben-Hur to spot rebels after huge confrontation ensue. Visitation by Simonides happens early in the movie while in the novel, Ben-Hur realizes the existing relationship that Simonide has to the fortune belonging to his father. Also in the movie, Simonide features as Ben-Hur’s slave from the start though Ben-Hur elucidates that he hardly consider neither his daughter nor Simonide his slave. The storyline in the novel presents a different case in relation to this. There is not pending marriage to happen between Esther and a merchant. Ben-Hur only meets Esther after his experience as a galley slave (Field, 2011).

The film also shows Ben-Hur on the way to Judea from Rome when he halts in Antioch where characters’ dynamics are completely different. He also encounters Balthasar who openly asks him if he is Jesus. In the novel, the respective scene associates him with Sheik Ilderim having a horse running them in Chariot races. The film moves the race from Antioch to Jerusalem while Lewis Wallace considered the impossibility of the same in the novel given the historical reality at such a time characterized by lack of arena which could hold such an occasion. Besides, the idea that such an event could potentially excite passions in crowds in patriotic way would be chartered in an area known for extreme rebellion to Roman rule iis far much stretched (Wallace, 1995).

The role of characters in film and the novel are the same for major characters like Ben-Hur and Messala but different for other minor characters. For instance Esther features in the movie as a servant who normally remains at home all the time when Ben-Hur is not available and also when his sister and mother are imprisoned. In the novel, Esther’s role is taken by Amrah combined with Simonide’s daughter. Also, the traits in most characters in the book stay the same in the film but in other instances, new traits are introduced. Messala’s greed is depicted in the novel when he takes Hur’s wealth together with Gratus, Roman governor and that becomes the sole reason behind harsh treatment of the family. This never appears at all in the movie. On the same note, Malluch is depicted in the film as a large introvert joined together with crippled Simonides in making “one whole man.” On the other hand, the book portrays Malluch as Simonide’s servant who gives a hand in investigation of Judah Ben-Hur while in Antioch. Introduction of new characters and roles also brings on board a point for comparison. The movie lacks Iras, beautiful daughter of Balthasar. A complex attractive woman features with Ben-Hur for a short time while in Rome. In the novel, Iras becomes a romantic antagonist o Esther and goes ahead of Esther in attempts to win Ben-Hur’s affection(Wallace, 1995).

Events surrounding the race are also created differently in the film and the novel. In the novel, false information regarding the death of his mother and sister is concealed from Ben-Hur but in the movie, it becomes the motivational factor to race against Messala. The novel also shows Ben Hur’s clear intention of not winning the race but murdering Messala in the process. However the movie gives a hint about this but Ben-Hur becomes the ultimate winner in the race with less obvious result as he had planned. The book shows that Messala does not die immediately after the race. In addition, the film is not specific about activities of Ben-Hur after the race. On the other hand, the book depicts Beh-Hur training legions to rebel and be on standby. In fact, the movie shows his talking about rebellion, discussing with Esther and rejecting overtures of friendship from Pontius Pilate, the new governor (Wallace, 1995). In the novel, he is ready to follow his hatred of Rome. 

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