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Ghost World- A Comparison of the Graphic Novel and Film

Updated on October 11, 2012
Enid Coleslaw
Enid Coleslaw

Ghost World is a poignant, quirky, melancholy, and insightfully written portrait of teenage life and all its accompanying angst. The story follows two recently graduated best friends, Enid and Rebecca, as they go about their lives and come to realize that their high school relationship may not survive adulthood. The book and the movie differ on many points but manage to retain the same overall feel.

Ghost world's film and book essentially contain the same characters and setting, but a few key plot points were altered. For instance, the characters of Enid and her friend Becky seem to have been reversed. In the book, Rebecca felt as though she was constantly being undermined and demeaned by Enid, who tended to hold the spotlight. Rebecca was more of the sidekick, and voiced at one point that she was tired of putting more into the friendship than she got out of it. She also felt that every boy liked Enid better than her, and that this meant there was something wrong with her. She seemed to have no perceivable goals or direction, unlike Enid who was taking a test to get into Strathmore College, which she kept a secret from Becky for a while. In the film, however, Becky was the one who was liked more by boys, and planned for the future, whereas Enid was the one who wasn't going anywhere in life and was trying to follow Becky and possibly move in with her when she got an apartment.

The film's character of Seymour was developed from a very small part in the book. The girls played a prank on a man who has placed an ad in the paper to get in touch with a woman he met briefly by calling him and pretending to be the woman, and they set up a date with him. Obviously, the woman never showed up, and Becky and Enid watched as he eventually gave up waiting and left. That is where the scene ends in the novel, but in the movie, that man becomes a key character. The girls stalked him back to his house and looked through his mail. Enid became somewhat intrigued by the endearingly over-serious and dorky nature of the older middle-aged man, and ended up visiting his garage sale. There she bought a record from him that has a song she finds to be haunting, raw, and beautiful, and from that moment she gained appreciation for Seymour and began to view him as a confidant and friend. Their relationship escalated until near the end of the movie, when-- in what may have been a desperate attempt to take her life into her own hands after flunking out of art school-- she suggested moving in with Seymour and ultimately ended up sleeping with him. Most of the movie is centered on the relationship between Enid and Seymour, rather than on the relationship between Enid and Becky that the book is based on. Seymour also seemed to take the place of Josh in many instances. While Josh's character was not completely removed from the movie, it is Seymour who Enid went to when she was upset, and it is Seymour who she convinced to go with her into the adult store and lend her money for a catwoman-type hat, instead of Josh as in the book. Although the film and book versions both succeeded, each have decidedly different focuses and seemed to cater to different audiences.

Beyond the basic plot alterations, the movie contained more subtle differences. The dialogue of the two girls, for instance, was cynical and irreverent in both but in the book contained bursts of the exuberance and overexcitement typical of their age, as shown by large, bold letters and lots of question marks and exclamation points at times within their speech bubbles. When they heard or saw something that amused them, shocked them, or made them angry, they shouted it out-- along with plenty of expletives and exaggerated facial expressions. Whereas in the film, Enid and Rebecca are placid and flat in their speech, showing emotion only through the less extreme subtleties that are normally characteristic of older adults.

Appearances change slightly from book to film -- and the main change is the addition of color. The book is mostly in shades of a pale blue, and the movie's addition of color was welcome and added quite a bit to the experience. Enid's green hair, the plaids and other garish patterns of her unique vintage apparel, the pale brown's of Seymour's antiques, the pink of the inside of the 50's diner, and everything else added an effective vividness. Otherwise, the characters and settings seem to be very similar looking to the drawings in the book.

All in all, the main story-line translates from book to movie. Enid's desperate attempt to always defy definition, Enid and Rebecca's struggle to exist comfortably in a world that will never understand them, their fascination with and appreciation for the oddballs of the world, (even if it is just to make fun of them), their deep friendship with each other that ends up being second-guessed and sabotaged as they trample one another's feelings during their own individual attempts to become who they want to be without yet knowing quite what that is: all of this is in the film as well as the book. Enid's final decision-- to leave abruptly-- is the ultimate conclusion of both story lines, however different they were. And both the film and the movie leave the reader, or viewer, with an indistinct feeling of emptiness and a lack of resolve. Whether they can relate to Becky, to Enid, to Josh, to Seymour, or to any other one of the characters in Ghost World, it is bound to strike a chord somewhere and leave the reader/ viewer wishing that something--something they maybe can't quite put a finger on--was different with the world.


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