John Grisham's A Time to Kill is a powerful courtroom drama that examines the difference between social justice and moral justice in a small town in Mississippi. Given the legacy of segregation and racism in the south, it describes both the emotional and complex legal issues of fairness and equality in the eyes of the law. The story is about a young white lawyer, who successfully defends a black man, clearly guilty of killing the two white men who raped his ten year old daughter. Both the novel and film version are riveting dramas, and their major differences lie in the context of the two mediums.
The basic difference between a novel and a screenplay is that the former can indulge in the luxury of full descriptive passages and the latter must adhere to a very specific structure. Novels give us the opportunity to meet the characters and create a relationship with them. The details of who they are can be developed. We learn about their past. We see them in the context of where they live. The events in a novel move in linear time and with a novel, we have all the time in the world.
A screenplay is structured around the theatrical format of three acts. Act one is the set up with exposition and conflict stated. Act two is the development of the conflict, the arc of the story. Act three is the resolution and moral or message. All this happens in a limited amount of time. The first major contrast between the novel A Time to Kill and its film adaptation is the condensation of time and the way the story unfolds.
In the movie the main event, the trial, is stated and established in the first ten minutes. From that point on there
is a rush to find out whether the jury will convict or acquit. The story telling is paced so the viewing audience stays involved and engaged in the action. Pacing is everything and it relates back to the issue of limited time. Therefore, some of the finer points suffer in the tran...