In the movie and the short story, The Devil and Daniel Webster, written by Stephen Vincent Benet, there is illustrated the battle between the forces of good and evil. Although the story allows the reader to mentally picture the scenes and the movie does the depicting for the viewer, there are several similarities in each script. Some of these similarities are the way the characters are depicted and the final scene. There are several incongruous scenes between the short story and the way the movie unfolds.
The differences are the amount of time that is spent on the character development, also there are some scenes added into the movie such as the harvest dance and the reminder of the contract. There are three main characters in this short story/movie. They are Scratch, Daniel Webster, and Jabez Stone. The actors picked for the roles fit almost perfectly to the descriptions of the characters in the short story. Scratch is described as a soft-spoken, dark-dressed strangerwhite teeth…were filed to a point..
As shown in the movie the actor was also a very darkly clad man. He also had a very soft, hypnotic voice and whenever he smiled his teeth were very shiny and pointy. The man described as the biggest man in the countrywhen he stood up to speak, stars and stripes came right out of the skyand when he argued a case, he could turn on the harps of the blessed and the shaking of the earth underground was Daniel Webster. In the movie the actor who filed his role was a very big man with a powerful voice.
The last character, Jabez Stone, wasnt given a very active role in the short story, but he was described as an unlucky manhe had a good wife and children, but the more he had the less there was to feed them. In the movie Jabez is seen more throughout the unfolding of the tale and his family life was a little different. He had only one child and that was after the contract with the devil was made. The ending to the short story took place in Jabezs barn and consisted of a jury filled with the ruthless dead. This was also how the movie was played out.
Even the closing speech that Daniel made wasnt told word for word in the short story, but the way it was spoken in the movie seemed to sum up the way it was supposed to be in the short story. It had the same affect because it made the glitter [be] gone from the eyes of the judge and jury, and, for the moment, they were men again, and knew they were men. The only difference in the movie that I didnt like as much was that the Devil didnt seem as intimidated by Daniel Webster as he did in the short story. He just laughed at Daniel and told him hed get him in the presidency race.
There are even more differences between the scripts then there are similarities. The first of these is the way the characters are depicted. I already pointed out that Jabez had a bigger role in the movie and that he only had one child. His wife, her mother, the neighboring farmers and the housekeeper were also given more substantial roles in the movie. His wife, Mary, was there to dote on him and also to show her support for him after all the farmers had turned on him. Her mother and the farmers, who werent even mentioned in the short story, were there to act as Jabezs conscious.
The mother always seemed to appear after something bad happened. The farmers were there at first to get him to join the Populist movement and the Farmers Guild. When he refused that and took the devils offer all he would do was gloat. They eventually turned on him, this is different in the short story because in it they were very fond of him and even wanted him to run for state senate. The housekeeper was also around a lot and for some reason after the baby is born she changes into Belle, a very seductive, young women.
This is one thing about the movie that I didnt like because it distracted from the whole idea of the contract he made. In the movie Jabez moves into a new home where he hosts a harvest dance. During this scene he pushes his wife away and Daniel comes to take her and their son. Also in this scene Mr. Stevens contract is up and Scratch turns him into a moth and places him in the box. I liked how the interaction between the Devil and Jabez occurred, but I thought the scene with Mr. Stevens swirling around and finally collapsing was a little too much. He should have just been struck dead.
That is why I do like the one scene where the Devil after Making the contract with Jabez writes the termination date in the trunk of the tree so as to remind Jabez every day. Also the scene with Jabez trying to cut down the tree as to break the contract was very effective. Overall the way the director decided to interpret the short story was not the same as I did while I was reading it. For the most part he tried to stick with the script, but with the scenes he tried to change they didnt seem as effective. However the scenes he decided to add and the characters he expanded on were a great choice and brought the story alive.