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Mary Reilly Research Papers

Mary Reilly can be explored in a research paper on the novel or on the film. Our writers at Paper Masters custom write every project according to your specifications.

The movie is never as good as the book.  It is a standard cliché, with notable exceptions. Most of the time, when a person reads the book first, there are a host of complexities and subplots that cannot be condensed into an hour and a half of film. And if one sees the movie first, it is impossible not to see the actors in the action of the novel.  The novel and film adaptation of Mary Reilly (novel by Valerie Martin; adapted screenplay Christopher Hampton, directed by Stephen Frears) present a retelling of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde from the perspective of an Irish housemaid. The question is, which medium presents a stronger version of the title character?  It can be safely argued that the film version of Mary is the stronger presentation.

Mary Reilly

On the surface, Mary Reilly is both a dutiful servant and stereotypical weaker woman of the Victorian Era in the following way:

  • Mary Reilly knows her place
  • Mary Reilly accepts her position in the hierarchy of the house
  • Mary Reilly is genuinely shocked and frightened at the unfolding of events around her

However, this meekness hides a very strong person underneath. Considering the childhood trauma of the rat in the closet, in the film Mary admits to being afraid of rats and small places, as well as bad dreams. Although the book opens with this account, Julia Robert’s Mary is brash and inquisitive within the confines of her position.  She is not afraid to speak her mind to the Master, even if it means stepping beyond her station, as Mister Poole frequently reminds her.

In the book, the errands and secrecy that Dr. Jekyll put upon Mary directly correlate to her childhood. This only hinted at in the film, but the background is sufficient enough to provide both motivation and strength of character in the film.  In the film, these actions only serve to make Mary bolder. The more she learns, the closer she becomes to Dr. Jekyll, giving her the ability to speak her mind to him.

Mary is also brash enough to quickly invent the story of the garden for Mister Poole, who questions why she spends so long in conversation with the Master of the house. This, in fact, opens up the relationship between Jekyll and Mary, leading her to reveal the tale of her scars as a return for the kindness he shows her. In the book, the revelation of the childhood trauma opens the entire tableau, Mary readily agrees to the doctor’s request.  In the book she is following the dictates of her gender and societal position. In the film, however, Mary holds this memory deep inside her, and is unwilling to divulge the information.


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