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Literary Analysis of the Novel “Darkly Dreaming Dexter” and Film Analysis of Dexter the TV Series and Impact of Heroic Vigilantism Portrayed in Real Life


There are two core ways of expressing fiction, the audiovisual form, and the prose of novels. Over the past century, the two different media have gained a multitude of fans across the globe. Many literary masterpieces have, over the years, been adapted to film. The novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, published in 2004, was adapted to a television series on Showtime by the name Dexter and first aired on 1st October 2006. While a majority of the first season of the television series was based on the book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter, the analysis of the literature and the film differ in many core ways. The paper argues while both movies and novels are adequate means of telling a story, there are many differences between literature and films that make films more appealing to many in contemporary society.

The movie series Dexter is similar to the novel Darkly Dreaming Dexter; in a sense, they both tell a story of a vigilante serial killer. In both the television series and the book, the lead actor and the main protagonist respectively, Dexter Morgan, works at the Miami-Dade police department as a forensic blood spatter analyst by day as a serial killer by night. However, Dexter only kills murderers who have escaped judicial punishment (Lindsay). While the specifics vary a little between the book and the film, the bottom line is both systems of representation tell the story of Dexter, the vigilante serial killer. Both the television series and the novel include genres. The television series Dexter is categorized as a crime drama, psychological thriller, mystery, dark comedy, and police procedural (Manos). Similarly, the novel by Jeff Lindsay is classified as a crime novel and horror fiction. However, while the book has two broad genres, a crime novel, and horror fiction, the movie has several categories that reflect a sub-genre, including police procedural and dark comedy.

Before analyzing the differences in analysis procedures, it is vital to acknowledge there are several core differences between movies and books. The most crucial difference is the fact that films utilize visual images, while novels apply verbal signs (Bo 58). Moreover, since the camera can only capture the surface, movies, in most cases, use other techniques such as narration to capture the thoughts of the characters. Novels, on the other hand, books can capture the interior, including the feelings of the characters since books are presented in prose, which ultimately allows for narration. Indeed, films tend to show people the story, while novels tell people the story (Bo 61). These general differences in books and movies apply to the case of Dexter, the television series, and Darkly Dreaming Dexter the series. Differences in the way the stories are presented imply there are differences in the way these two types of presentation are analyzed.

The techniques applied to analyze films are closely related to those utilized in literary analysis. Indeed, the analysis of both movies and novels encompasses elements such as plot, setting, characterization, structure and theme, and other aspects that make up the text or the screenplay. However, since films are multi-medial, other factors are included in film analysis, including sound, music, lighting, camera angles, and editing, among others. Films analysis, therefore, encompasses the analysis of literary aspects in the screenplay in addition to the analysis of how sound, music, lighting, camera angles and shots, and editing contribute to the making of a good film.

The first element in the analysis of either a novel or a film is describing the book or the film contents. Content is a broad term that includes; novel and film facts, genre, setting, plot and structure, conflict, characterization, point of view, theme, and imagery. Darkly Dreaming Dexter is a 2004 novel written by Jeff Lindsay. The book is the first in the author’s series about serial killer Dexter Morgan. Dexter, on the other hand, is a television series developed by James Manos Jr. that aired on Showtime from October 2006 to September 2013. The television series is loosely based on the novel, only a few episodes of the first season collaborate with the facts in the book. Michael Hall was the lead actor and played the serial killer vigilante Dexter Morgan. In both the book and the movie, the story is set in present-day Miami as of 2004 and 2006, respectively (Lindsay).

In both the book and the series, Dexter Morgan is orphaned at a young age when his biological mother is killed by a chainsaw. Young Dexter is adopted by a Miami police officer, Harry Morgan, who is keen to notice the boy’s trauma and gradually developed of sociopathic tendencies. Morgan encourages Dexter to channel this energy to vigilantism and teaches him how to get away with murder. Both the book and the series narrate the story chronologically, but there are a few flashbacks to illustrate Dexter’s upbringing (Manos). The television series tends to give more focus on how the death of his mother influenced Dexter’s personality, unlike the book. However, the difference in depth might be since the book is barely 300 pages, while the film adaptation is a television series with eight seasons. In both the book and the series, the Dexter is the narrator. Telling the story from the serial killer works to give the readers and the viewers alike an insight into Dexter’s mind and how he rationalizes his killings.

In addition to film content, film analysis encompasses the analysis of cinematic effects. Cinematic effects include a soundtrack, use of the camera, including camera shots and angles, lighting, and editing. For instance, the open title theme season when the first season of the series premiered was a song written by Rolfe Kent and presented by Daniel Licht. There are several music pieces throughout the movie that was overseen by Gary Calamar. Since Dexter is presented as a television series, the analysis of soundtrack and editing aspects is a rather daunting challenge (Manos). However, it is essential to acknowledge, unlike the book, the analysis of the television series encompasses analyzing the audiovisual effects applied.

It is essential to recognize that film adaptation often receives extensive support in pop culture compared to their book counterparts. Indeed, critics assert that many viewers identify with Dexter in the television series since he seeks to punish those who have escaped the law. Many admire the character of Dexter since he has the courage and capacity to take matters into his own hands in the pursuit of justice. Moreover, the fact that Dexter does not show remorse for his actions persuades many of the viewers to also rationalize with his actions (Houwen 3). The extensive support of vigilantism in popular culture makes many identify with the concept despite the recognized rule that murder is indeed a crime.


It is a recognized fact that the majority of films are based on novels. However, these two means of storytelling use different means to tell the same story. Different ways of storytelling warranty different styles of analysis for the films and the television. Unlike the novels, the multi-media aspects of films necessitate the analysis of cinematic effects such as the soundtrack, camera angles, camera shots, lighting, and editing. Therefore, film analysts and novel analysts apply different techniques to analyze Dexter, the television series, and Darkly Dreaming Dexter the novel.

Works Cited

Bo, Bao. “The Difference between Novels and Films-Enhance Literature Teaching Using Films.” US-China Education Review Vol. 5. No. 7 (2008): pp. 58-62.

Dexter. Dir. James Jr. Manos. 2006.

Houwen, Janna. “Identifying with Dexter.” (2015): pp. 1-25.

Lindsay, Jeff. Darly Dreaming Dexter. Vintage Crime, 2004.


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