The Exorcist

William Peter Blatty
The Exorcist Cover

The Exorcist


William Peter Blatty wrote The Exorcist in 1971 and the movie came out in 1974, so I am of the generation that has never known a time when the movie was not considered a "Cinematic Classic". Just say the title and people are able to quote lines from the movie. So I had solid preconceived notions of the characters and the story line. I visualized the movie as I read the story. This novel has grown to be the benchmark that movies about possession are judged. What surprised me most about the novel was just how true the writers of the movie script kept to the original story. There were several iconic scenes from the movie that drew directly from the book. Especially the scene where Farther Merrin first arrives to the home of Ragan, the possessed girl. The scene of him standing in the fog and the misty rain while being back lit from the street was taken almost word for word from the novel.

That said, there were some deviations. In the novel, Ragan is 12 years old. Linda Blair appeared older. In the movie, Father Karras is hesitant to ask that the exorcism be performed because the family has no catholic affiliation, and is in fact atheist. Although it is mentioned in the novel, it is not a major obstacle.

Unfortunately, the very fact that I knew what was going to happen took some of the shocks out of the scenes. I knew that there were going to be more and more depraved acts performed on the young girl as the possession proceeded. I can imagine the scenes with the crucifix would have been incredibly shocking and disturbing to a reader who did not know it would happen.

I very much enjoyed the novel, The Exorcist. The internal struggle of faith Karras faces after the loss of his mother felt so real to me. As a lifelong lapsing and returning Catholic, I understand this struggle. There is a reason the apostle was called "Doubting Thomas", even Jesus asked why his god had forsaken him in a moment of doubt on the cross. Even in the bible there is a history of faith being tested and found lacking until the moment of greatest need. This test of faith was beautifully played out in the novel. Karras feeling the glimmer of faith and then having dashed away again and again. Although never said outright in the novel, Father Karras look of happiness and relief at the moment of his death implies that he found his faith at the last.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty has been listed a classic and with good reason.

4 out of 5 stars