Vol. 8 No. 1 (2019): ‘He just isn’t my Frost’: The Television Adaptation of R.D. Wingfield’s Jack Frost
Simon Statham (Queen’s University Belfast)
This article presents an analysis of the police television series A Touch of Frost (Yorkshire Television, 1992) and the crime novels by Rodney Wingfield upon which it is based. In order to analyse the way the protagonist, Inspector Jack Frost, is characterised in either version, data is drawn from the pilot episode of the series and Wingfield’s debut novel Frost at Christmas (1984). Wingfield was less than impressed with television’s version of Frost, stating, ‘He just isn’t my Frost’. The rationale for this article is to apply established models in stylistics to investigate the differences between the original and the adaptation. A core motivation for stylistics is to ‘support initial impressions in various extracts’ readings’ and to ‘describe the readers’ response with some precision’ (Gregoriou 2007: 19); this article therefore offers a close linguistic explanation for an author’s dissatisfaction with the adaptation of his own work. The famously reticent Wingfield did not elaborate in detail on why he disapproved of the television version of Frost, although several critics observed that Wingfield felt television had ‘softened’ his creation. This article contends that ‘softness’ is represented in language through politeness strategies adopted by speakers whilst impoliteness represents the ‘tougher’ speech of Wingfield’s original iteration of Jack Frost. In order to demonstrate this contention, this study will analyse pragmatic elements of the dialogue of both novel and television versions of Frost through the analytical framework for impoliteness developed by Culpeper (1996; 2010). This framework will be integrated into the model for analysing the elements of narrative outlined by Simpson and Montgomery (1995), in turn suggesting an elaboration of this model. In investigating whether television’s Jack Frost is ‘softer’ than the character envisaged by Wingfield, free direct speech and accompanying physical behaviour in novel and television adaptation are analysed, focussing on whether the perceived softness of the latter has been partly achieved by making the speech of Frost less impolite on television.