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The Adaptation of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

Stephanie Norris
February 22, 2015
ARTH241 – Film and Literature
Marc McGrath

The Adaptation of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

As Margaret held her small son for what she knew would be the last time, her life flashed before her eyes. How could it be that she was subjected to so much in her short forty years of life for it all to come crashing down and ending now? She knew she was smart, strong, and capable. She was the best-read person in all of New England and highly respected, even amongst men. She was part of the inner circle of writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson. This final moment put her in unfamiliar territory that left her completely out of control. Had Margaret Fuller lived a longer life, and her works not been destroyed with her, the aptitude of women would have been accepted sooner.

Adapting a book into a film is not always a simple or easy task. There are considerations screenwriters have to make at times that may not fully coincide with the original text they are adapting. While parts of the original literature may be easy to adapt, others may not be as easy and would resist translation. Apart from these challenges, screenwriters and filmmakers alike may face challenges during the adaptation and production of the filmmaking process. The challenges may include social, economic, technical, or spectatorial challenges.

Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, a biography of Margaret Fuller, written by Megan Marshall would certainly be a fascinatingly entertaining film if it were adapted to film. There would be challenges, of course, but the story behind Margaret Fuller is full of mystery and intrigue. Both ease and difficulty in adapting the film can be found in the little evidence known of the true life of Margaret Fuller. Socially, economically, technically, and spectatorially there may be challenges in adapting the text of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life, as well.

The parts of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life that would be easy to adapt to film include using a narrator to guide the film through to its completion. In this case, the biographer would be the narrator. The lack of knowledge of the true life Margaret lived would allow the story to be told however the biographer interpreted the information they found in her life. A great assistant to the biographer, which would help in the adaptation of this book to a first-rate film, would be the accounts of all of the writers and people Margaret befriended in her lifetime. Margaret was a highly sought after woman and was in the inner circle of people like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Apart from these aspects of Margaret’s life, the all to well-known fact of how she, her beloved husband, and their precious two-year-old son met their demise would be an easy, yet sad, adaptation to film.

The parts of Margaret Fuller: A New American Life that would not be easy to adapt to film include the fact that this is so little known of the life that Margaret lived. As much as this leaves open to creativity, scholars may frown greatly upon the perspectives conveyed through the adaptation of this literary piece to a film. Many films have faced high scrutiny and turned into box office flops with horrendous reviews from not just film critics, but historians too. Attempting to gain the perspective of a historian on the life of Margaret Fuller may present a challenge as well, as there are so many people that claim to “know” what real-life occurrences actually took place.

Social challenges a filmmaker might encounter adapting Margaret Fuller: A New American Life to film include feminist groups. The perspectives people had of women during the time Margaret Fuller lived would be highly frowned upon by these groups. Aside from only feminist groups, there are social challenges that would be faced in terms of…