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Teacher's Guide [imagemap with 10 links]

Novel into Film

  • Refer to the ideas you had before viewing the film about how to adapt the story into film. How did your ideas compare with the filmmakers? How successful do you think they were in capturing the essence of the story? For more background on the making of the film, read the interview with director Martha Coolidge.

  • In the film, the interaction between Uncle Daniel and Intrepid Elsie Fleming takes several scenes. In the novel it is two paragraphs. What does the filmmaker accomplish by amplifying this scene and putting it at the beginning of the film? What does it help you learn about Uncle Daniel, the Ponders, and their town?

  • These following lines, spoken by Edna Earle in the novel, are not in the film but are illustrated by it in many ways. How does the film show this rather than tell it?

    I don't know if you can measure love at all. But Lord knows there's a lot of it, and seems to me from all the studying I've done over Uncle Daniel -- and he loves more people than you and I put together ever will -- that if the main one you've set your heart on isn't speaking for your love, or is out of your reach some way, married or dead, or plain nitwitted, you've still got that love banked up somewhere. What Uncle Daniel did was just bestow his all around quick -- men, women, and children. Love! There's always somebody wants it. Uncle Daniel knew that. He's smart in a way you aren't, child.

  • The movie ends without showing what happens to Uncle Daniel's position in Clay after his trial. How do you think he is treated in town after he gives all his money away? Why? Read the last several pages of the novel to see how Welty describes what happens. How similar is it to what you predicted? Why do you think the filmmakers chose to leave it out?

  • Narciss, the African-American cook, is an important character in The Ponder Heart. Research the typical roles and living conditions of African-Americans in Mississippi in the 1930s and 1940s and the attitudes of white Southerners toward them. How does Welty's The Ponder Heart reflect this history? What problems does The Ponder Heart present in this respect for the contemporary filmmaker? How did the screenwriter, Gail Gilchriest, and the director, Martha Coolidge, handle this aspect of the adaptation? Were they successful? Why or why not? For more background on the making of the film, read the interview with director Martha Coolidge.

Teacher's Guide:
Plot Summary | Before Viewing | Viewing Strategies | After Viewing
Novel into Film | Scene Study | Investigations and Extentions | Resources

A Eudora Welty Timeline | One Writer's Place | Voices of Mississippi
Martha Coolidge, Director | Novel to Film | Who's Who
Story Synopsis | Teacher's Guide | The Forum | Links + Bibliography

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