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1930's novel "They Shoot Horses, Don't They" and the film with the same title, which adapted the storyline written by Horace McCoy.
They Shoot Horses. Don't They?"
The book "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" was written by the American author Horace McCoy. When it was written in the 1930's the American population has fallen victim to the great depression. In 1969 the book was converted into a film that was nominated for the Academy Awards in nine categories. The film follows the basic storyline of the book like any other adaptation.
With its structure, storyline and expression the novel can be stated to be giving a murky glance at both, human disposition and human psychology. To say the least this is fast moving, atrocious crime novel. These elements are exposed through the participation of "Couple 22" in a marathon dance contest being held in the state of California. The competition turns out to be a symbol of the severe and relentless drudge and toil of real life.
In the book the author introducers the readers to the two leading characters of the novel, Robert Syverten and Gloria Beatty. The former aims to become a director in Hollywood while the latter an actress. Individually they have still been unable to make it to Hollywood, thus related employment and wages are distant dreams. They meet on the streets of Hollywood and decide to enter the marathon. With their financial status entering the competition seems more than reasonable specially with the dance organizers providing free meals to participants.
However the free food is not the only catch. There is an also a prize money of a thousand dollars for being able to dance round the clock and hopefully remain the last couple standing. This is not what their initial purpose was though. Originally there intent to enter and interest in the competition stemmed from their individual wants to come across Hollywood producers and stars. The two enter the dance competition along with more than a hundred other couples. They are "Couple 22."
Among the hundred and forty four participants many dropped out early. Other than those who have called it quits many have been removed through the frenetic derby races that were introduced to help increase the audience. Their total number has fallen to twenty. Then there are also many of those dancers who neither give up nor are eliminated but due to the stress and fatigue pass out. To help them regain consciousness they are awakened with smelling salts or ice baths. Once they regain consciousness they are not allowed to rest but are rather immediately sent back to the dance floor.
Against this background the author details into the feelings and mind set of both the leading characters. Robert Syverten has gained five pounds during the marathon primarily because food is in good in supply and free of cost. His weight gain is not depressing since the other participants share a similar story. Even with the number of participants decreasing and the remaining ones often passing out he is not to ready to give up.
He still hopes that he will be discovered by a Hollywood bigwig at the competition. If this does not happen then he plans to use the prize money to direct a picture of his own. Thus even in such hard times he is able to keep the his attitude positivistic. On the other hand the character of Gloria Beatty has now begun to show strands of plight and helplessness. She feels she is stuck in a rut. The words "when we get out of here we're right back where we started" demonstrates that the undertones resulting from the dilemmas of her life are now becoming apparent.
At the marathon Gloria Beatty tries to convince one of her fellow participants who is pregnant to abort the child. She justifies her suggestion on the grounds that it is better for the child. This proposition of hers reveals the impact that the great depression had on the people at that time. Throughout the contest she keeps on informing her partner, Robert Syverten, that she wishes that she would exit from the world. It is this wish of Gloria Beatty that is eventually fulfilled and that also from the hands of her partner Robert Syverten.
The way the story has been mentioned above is not the way the author has scripted it. Much to the contrary it has been written through flashbacks. Horace McCoy opens the story by introducing the character of Robert Syverten. He is an extra from the town of Arkansas who came to Hollywood to become a director and is now about to be sentenced to death for a murder he has already committed. Thus it is obvious that the aim of the author is not to build the novel like a mystery but to dive into why the murder was committed.
Gloria Beatty, the very pessimistic and frantic partner of Robert Svyerten was the victim of this murder. As the story progress its surfaces that even though the death was a result of Robert Syverten pulling the trigger it was Gloria Beatty who had provided him the gun. Not only this after thirty six consecutive dreadful days of dancing round the clock she had actually requested him to put a close to her life.
Thus even though he is being convicted for murder it is just the inchoate offence of aiding he has committed. Her death was actually the result of an indirect suicide. This cannot be proved however since at the time of the shooting the two were alone and in the absence of a witness there is an assumption of murder. Robert Syverten felt that this was the natural thing to do. He decided by drawing an analogy with the remembrance of a horse that had been shot the same way by his grandfather when he was a kid. Rethinking about his act at the time of the trial he feels sorry and realizes how daft he had been.
Through the novel and its characters a very honest and descriptive picture is painted of the individuals who were having to survive in an economy going through the great depression. Furthermore it has explored the different areas and ways in which individuals are effected by a dull economy. To make the story more realistic and easy to relate to Horace McCoy has drawn in different aspects from real life like, murder, incest and abortion.
A special element that the author has introduced into the story is marathon dance competition. The angle that surfaces is the feeling of fulfillment humans achieve by sitting audience to the misery of fellow humans. The rich class of people among whom the flow of money is ample entertain themselves by watching the suffering and distress of the finically poorer classes who are ready to toll themselves physically and mentally for food and money.
Moreover the undercurrents directed towards Hollywood cannot be ignored. Not only is their mention of the attraction it holds for the common man but also the cut throat competition it invites. Additionally human emotions have been shadowed in the reactions of being unable to break into Hollywood. Although initially the book did not receive much appreciation its release in France in 1946 changed the scenario and it was adapted for a movie under the same title.
It was not until the era of the Vietnam War in 1969 that director Sydney Pollack brought Horace McCoy's story which detailed into human suffering to the screen. Editor Fredric Steinkamp, has done well to complement the eccentric pace the story was scripted. The two have together successfully created an powerful, claustrophobic environment involving the viewer in those set of people who shamelessly became audience to the pain and…[continue]
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