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Literature: The Beach

The Beach is the first novel of British author Alex Garland. First published in 1996.

Richard is a tourist who is bored with the lack of adventure in all the exotic countries where he tries to find it. He and two friends come into possession of a map. They discover a beautiful island beach where a small populace lives in secret. However, paradise never works; it isn't long before everything comes to a horrific climax.

Made into a largely derided film by Danny Boyle; the film starred Leonardo DiCaprio.

Provides examples of:

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     Tropes Present in Both Versions 
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • Many side plots and characters were cut, most obviously Jed, but most key plots went from the book to the movie. Still, in the book, Richard never has sex with Sal nor Franšoise, though he often considers it.
    • Richard's frequent references to The Vietnam War, and pop-culture related to it such as Apocalypse Now and Mash, are absent in the movie, although he does look in on a theater showing a piece of Apocalypse Now in Thailand towards the beginning. It is a part of the famous Napalm Bombing scene. note 
  • Anti-Villain / Noble Demon: In the movie, the head farmer appears to be genuine when he says that he doesn't want to hurt anyone and just wants to farm his marijuana in peace. Case in point, the revolver he gives to Sal to kill Richard with turns out to be unloaded, and judging by his smirk when he sees everyone else's horrified panic that Sal would have actually killed Richard, he managed to get them all to leave without killing anyone else. In the book, he's darker but still prefers to scare the beachers than kill them.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: The copy of the map Richard makes turns up when he and Sal go to the mainland. And after a few more minutes in the movie, the stoners he gave it to end up on the island.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Zeph and Sammy's map.
  • Composite Character: Jed is dropped for the film but much of his role remains, going to both Keaty and Sal.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The beach is a perfect paradise and they even make regular trips to the mainland so people don't have to miss their favourite modern conveniences. However Sal will do anything to preserve the community, even leaving Christo to die and shooting Richard if it means they get to stay. And that's not to mention the farmers with guns on the island and the sharks in the water.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The last we know about Sal.
  • Driven to Suicide: Daffy, see Go Mad from the Revelation below.
  • Enemy Within: Richard unwittingly becomes this, what with slipping into madness - plus, his na´ve desire for danger and adventure cloud his judgement and lead him and his friends into bad situations.
  • Everyone Looks Sexier If French: The lovely Franšoise.
  • First-Person Smartass: Richard is a well-read Genre Savy narrator. Although he didn't visit all Asian countries, he knows South-East Asia very well, he often refers to American culture and outsmarts many people.
  • Foreign Remake: Richard was British in the book but becomes American in the film.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Richard near the end suspects that the reason Daffy both went insane and gave Richard the map to the island before killing himself was that he knew the island could not stay secret forever, and that sooner or later it would become just as filthy and tourist filed as everywhere else. He gave the map to Richard, knowing he would copy the map and give it to others, hence accelerating, or "euthanizing" the demise of the community. Though remember that this is just Richards take on it and may or may not be true.
  • Holiday in Cambodia: The island houses a marijuana plantation, fortified by guards armed with automatic rifles. Marijuana smoking is mentioned in the book, in Bangkok and Ko Pha Ngan. Oh, and of course, there are hookers.
  • In Harm's Way: Richard gets increasingly reckless, at one point stalking an armed plantation guard through the jungle just for the thrill of it.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: See Secret Keeper. Richard has to share the map with Etienne, and the dead junkie at Hat Rin with Jed.
  • Knight of Cerebus: The unseen shark. See Mood Whiplash below.
  • Love Triangle: Richard is besotted with Etienne's girlfriend Francoise. Her feelings towards him are rather ambiguous. In the book it is only one of Richard's fantasy, but in the movie, things get real.
  • Mercy Kill: Richard, to a mortally wounded Christo. In the book, he doesn't react and dies silently, but in the movie he starts to move and moan.
  • Mood Whiplash: Richard and everyone else are having a great time on the island and it genuinely appears to be a paradise. Then the Swedes are attacked by a shark. It all goes downhill from there.
  • The Multiverse: Discussed briefly just before they get to The Beach.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Daffy, Bugs and Sal ("Sylvester" in the book). The reader/watcher never learns their real names.
  • Only Sane Man: ╔tienne, who is the only one to object to abandoning Christo in the woods
  • Plenty of Blondes: Justified since being out in the sun every day would bleach a lot of people's hair blonde.
  • Posthumous Character: Daffy, most of whose part in the novel is dreamed/imagined/hallucinated by Richard.
  • Sanity Slippage: Richard is on the way, starting at the second half of both the movie and the book. Also, every Beachers in the book, during the climax.
  • Secret Keeper:
    • In the book, Jed knows about the map Richard made for Zeph and Sammy. Richard also feels compelled to tell him he hid the dead junkie corpse, on the Rice Run to Hat Rin.
    • In the movie, Richard and Sal discuss the trope (regarding his secret mission), and how it's much easier to keep a secret if you tell one other person.
  • Surfer Dude: Sammy and Zeph, at first; subverted, only in the book, when Richard cottons on that it's all an act in response to snobby European travellers. In the movie, they are really supposed to be some surfer dudes.
  • Sudden Video-Game Moment: When Richard is running through the jungle in the film, and the game he imagines in the book.
  • The Tetris Effect: In the film, when Richard is in the jungle he briefly sees everything as a video game with HUD, lives and enemies as obstacles. Alluded to in a different scene in the novel, when he describes turning a sneak through the jungle into a Stealth-Based Game where he would lose lives for making loud noises.
  • Theme Naming: The island's founders are Only Known By Their Nicknames of Bugs, Daffy and Sylvester (shortened to Sal).
  • Unreliable Narrator: Richard gets steadily more deranged over the course, both in the movie and the novel. But then, so does everybody else. Possibly due in no small part to the massive amounts of drugs everyone is doing.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Sal does, and has done, some extremely dodgy things to maintain the paradise.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Sal. She just wanted to keep the Beach for themselves.

     Tropes Present in the Book 
  • The Cavalry: Jed, Keaty, Etienne and Francoise turn up with spears at the last second when the rest of the camp turns on Richard.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Along with the map, the false lead in the sea tunnel.
  • Enemy Within: Along with Richard, Sal, whose desire to protect the Beach from the outside world reaches sociopathic heights, and is the main cause of most of the horrific events taking place at the climax of the novel. Jed also considers Daffy as this because of the map, though he understands his logic.

     Tropes Present in the Film 
  • Agitated Item Stomping: When Richard is watching Zeph and Sammy having fun on the opposite island, he throws down the binoculars violently. Later, they seem to be still working fine.
    Richard: Great!! GREAAAT!!!
  • Call Back: Two that come back at the very end. Richard's speech about a parallel universe and Franšoise's photo of everyone on the beach. At the end she e-mails him the photo with the caption "Parallel Universe" on it.
  • Driven to Suicide: Along with Daffy, Sal in a deleted scene after her attempt to kill Richard at the farmer's insistence shocks and horrifies everyone else into leaving he island, can't bear to leave her precious paradise and turns the gun on herself.
  • Evil Brit: Sal which changes her from American to British.
  • Good Times Montage: The second quarter, when Richard, Franšoise and ╔tienne have been accepted into the beach community.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: ╔tienne says this more or less word for word to Richard after he finds out he slept with Francoise.
  • Karma Houdini: Invoked by Sal when she tells everyone that Richard slept with her. As leader, nobody would question her. Francoise would attack Richard but Bugs wouldn't dare leave her.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Starring a post-Titanic Leonardo Di Caprio, what did you expect?
  • Scenery Porn: But of course.
  • The Tooth Hurts: One of the inhabitants of the island needs to have a tooth pulled out, but he's not allowed to return to the mainland to have it done by a dentist. This foreshadows the problems caused by the shark attack later on.
  • Underwater Kiss
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Justified of course since it's Thailand and they are on a beach.
  • What Could Have Been: Ewan McGregor was initially cast as Richard but dropped out.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Sal forcing Richard to sleep with her. He won't say anything out of fear of what Bugs will do, or else in case of jeopardising his relationship with Franšoise. And Sal gets collateral in case Richard pisses her off.

Battle RoyaleLiterature of the 1990sBears Discover Fire
Battle RoyaleFilms of 2000 - 2004 Bedazzled (2000)
BaudolinoLit FicBeau Geste

alternative title(s): The Beach; The Beach
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