Dolores Claiborne

From Academic Kids

Dolores Claiborne (1993) is a novel by Stephen King, which was adapted into a 1995 film starring Kathy Bates.

When it first came out many fans were surprised and/or dissatisfied because the book did not live up to their expectations of a horror novel. It is written in spoken English—even in dialect—and is told by the title character. Also atypically for a King novel, the book has no chapters, nor even blank lines or other section breaks, thus the story is a single continuous narrative monologue.

As the story begins, Dolores Claiborne is in a police interrogation and wants to make clear to the police that she did not kill her wealthy employer, an elderly woman named Vera Donovan whom she has looked after for years. She does, however, confess to the murder of her husband, Joe St. George, almost 30 years before. The novel develops into the story of her life, her troubled marriage, and her relationship with her employer.

Unlike the majority of King's works, this novel contains very few supernatural elements. Those that do exist attempt to create a connection to King's previous novel, Gerald's Game. Some readers think that the book would have been better without this connection: It is not very important, and it is also never explained so people that have not read Gerald's Game are left in the dark. Later editions of the novel have a foreword that explains the connection.

The novel was adapted for the screenplay of a 1995 film of the same name with Kathy Bates in the title role. The film differs from the novel in two important aspects. First, the events leading up to Joe's murder take place over the course of several months in 1975. In the novel, however, Dolores first rebels against Joe in 1961 or so, but she does not kill him until July 1963.

More importantly, the film focuses less on the investigation into Vera Donovan's death and more on Dolores' relationship with her daughter, Selena. (Given the film's extensive use of flashbacks, Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as the adult Selena while Ellen Muth portrays Selena as she was at age fourteen.) The uneasy relationship between mother and daughter becomes increasingly combative throughout the film. Selena has long suspected her mother of murdering her father, and demands to know the truth. Dolores, for her part, tries to persuade Selena that she had no choice but to do the things she did, and that they were both victims of Joe's cruel treatment.

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