The movie and book portrayal of A Civil Action shares two very distinct stories. The movie depiction shows the drastic transition of a money driven bachelor to a lawyer fighting till the end for justice while the book reveals a sad and unjust story of the effects of toxic waste on a small city. Jan Schlichtman, the main protagonist, is given a much more involved role in the movie than in the book which takes away from the story of the injustice in Woburn itself. The stories of the families in Woburn is developed much further in the book adding a deeper emotional aspect.
The book and movie of A Civil Action reflect two very different stories of the underdog vs. the powerful but the audience is impacted at a much higher emotional level in the book. The movie portrayal of A Civil Action focuses much less on the suffering families and more on the story of a struggling lawyer. Jan Schlictmann is given a much more involved role in the movie than in the book. The movie portrayal begins and concludes with the story of Jan Schlitchman as well as focusing on his role in the lawsuit against W. R.
Grace and how it ultimately affected his life. As shown in the still image, the movie commences with Jan’s first interaction with one of the struggling families. A concerned mother calls the radio station Jan is speaking at and raises his attention to the toxic waste problems in Woburn. This initiates Jan investigation of the incident and leads the reader to be more invested in Jan’s story and less on the families’ story. Jan is viewed as the underdog as the huge company he is fighting against undermines him to be a simple injury lawyer.
By having a powerful company that is under so much scrutiny undermine the “hero” of the movie, the audience feels more strongly for Jan and is further devoted to his story. Jan narrates a lot of the scenes throughout the movie, which makes him the voice of the movie. His ideas and opinions become the audience’s thoughts, which further drifts them away from the families in Woburn. The children that were primarily affected by this injustice were barely shown in the movie and became a very distant idea to the audience. The down side of the director’s decision to focus on Jan is that emotional aspect of the
suffering families in Woburn is severely dampened. As opposed to the movie, the book focuses much more on the grieving families adding a much more emotive aspect. The author of the book chooses to include many of the children’s stories and the affect of the toxic water on their lives. For example, a “two-and-a-half-year-old boy from east Woburn,” who had been admitted to the hospital for “a persistent fever, pallor and irritability” (Harr) as result of the toxic water is just one of the many heart breaking stories included throughout the book.
The book truly emphasizes the confusion the families went through as to why“ there really was this number of children with leukemia” (Harr). Another characteristic of the book that is used to heighten the emotional aspect is the feature of time. Time is sped up a lot in the movie compared to the book, which gives everything a more carefree sentiment, and the hardships of the Woburn families are undermined. The book emphasizes the idea of time passing by using a lot of time references, “Spring of 1969…May 1971” “Nine days after…” “For three years” (Harr).
By stressing the amount of time and effort that was put in by everyone involved in this case it makes the story much more serious. In conclusion, the movie and book portrayal of A Civil Action show two very different stories. The movie follows Jan’s fight against a powerful company to bring justice to the families in Woburn. The book focuses much more on the actual events that took place and reflects on the heartbreaking truths of the incidents in Woburn. The emotional aspect of the movie is greatly inhibited leaving the audience with less than satisfying feeling at the conclusion the piece particularly in comparison to reading the book.