Compare and Contrast the Book Open City by Teju Cole and the Film Do the Right Thing by Spike lee.

Compare and Contrast the Book Open City by Teju Cole and the Film Do the Right Thing by Spike lee.


The book of “open city” by Teju Cole and the film of “Do the Right Thing” are some of the comparable and contrastable literary works. The book has its setting in New York and the film with its setting in Bedford, a black African neighborhood in Brooklyn. The article will develop, compare and contrast the theme of social relations brought out in the book of “Open City” and the film. However, before discussing both, a better understanding of the storyline of the book and the film is important.

According to Cole (12), the book of Open City by Teju Cole brings out the narration on wandering. Julius who is a flaneur is both a participant and an observer in the city life, basically in New York and also in Brussels which is highlighted in the first chapters of the novel. Julius who is an American training psychiatrist in Manhattan of Nigerian and German extraction has no roots in New York. Julius who is entranced in the city is anxious and but not to his outside status which is fetishist. Furthermore, he is on the rebound of relationship. His mind state connects with many walks that makes across the grid of urban, now aimlessly and now for the purpose. Furthermore, the book of Open City has a lot of profound reflections on these walks descriptions, and cultural forms. It praises city as a venue of power, community and desire. Breaking through the anonymous crowd, Julius encounters strangers, friend and acquaintances among them Moji (Cole, 23-76).

The book is more about conversation than strolling in the city streets because Julius engages in conversations constantly with everyone he meets. Basically conversation is the way Julius participates in the city life, and his conversations are more than just chit chats. However, they are the type of conversations that are crucial parts of a true cosmopolitanism. The initial pages of the book are sebaldian intensely and the narrator tells of how he began to go for the walk in the evening “last falls” (Cole, 26) and found the neighborhoods. These walks in deed, “lengthened steadily, taking me farther and farther  to the field every time, so that I found myself often at quite distance late at night from home, and was to return home after being compelled by subway”(Cole, 28).

“Do The Right Thing,” on the other hand, is an American drama film that was written, directed and produced by spike Lee. The movies brings out a story of a simmering neighborhood racial tension, that that degenerates and culminates into a tragedy on the summer hottest day.

A young black man, Mookie, resides in Bedford Stuyvesant, an African American neighborhood together with her sister, jade. Mookie delivers pizza in the neighboring pizzeria and Jade wants him out of her apartment because he is ambitionless. However, he works to support Tina, his girlfriend and Hector, their son. Salvator an American Italian who is the owner of the pizzeria has a son called Pino who hold racial contempt for the black and detest the working place. Vito, the younger son of Sal is a friend of Mookie but Pino is out to make the life of Mookie miserable. Lee pointed out that within the strict location and temporal confines of the film of “Do the Right Thing” lies the concerned work with tackling the enormous themes of America. That is liberty, violence, economics, and urban survival, ambition and race relations on a micro scale. With its unorthodox and thrilling blend of Black artificiality and Aristotelian unity, it gives the location of the big among the small and finally the national in the local.

The theme of social relations is seen in many instances in the book. To begin with, social integration as part of social relations in the book will be discussed. The theme of social integration in “Open City” comes out where the people must learn how to talk with other people to learn and understand how to reside with other people. Therefore, there should be series of conversations whereby an individual carefully listen to what other people are saying with the willingness attitude to change their minds on something that is important if they realize the partner  they were conversing with has a better idea or thinking ways than them. Cole (45) asserts that human beings are fallible and therefore should be constantly on the lookout for better   mechanisms and ways to make corrections on errors in their thinking modes of behavior or to improve them simply.

In both the book of “Open City” and the film of “Do the Right Thing” the theme of social relations is also portrayed in the manner in which the characters forget about their differences and hold truce to improve their social relations. The notion that cities and neighborhoods are just historical sites having many layers is brought out vividly. The cities have had large populations for a very long time, and therefore many people have lived and died throughout the history course. Lee pointed out that some of these tragic happenings have been forgotten, and the cosmopolitans and bustling metropolis are thought often in terms of broadways shows and sky scrapers with the inhabitants stories being neglected or falling by the way side. The main character in the book of “Open City” is described as wandering in the city and documenting whatever he sets his eyes upon. Forgetfulness and remorse to improve social relations get revealed at the end of the film of “Do the Right Thing.” There is an element of truce between Mookie and Sal. Both are aware of the violent and reckless actions of their previous night and wish they could have just moved on without the ingrained societies racial and suspicions and stereotypes. However, for them to speak that way means it is unrealistic socially but also hurt the provocative ambiguity of the ending.

In contrasting the movie of “Do the Right Thing” and the book of “Open City” to bring out the prevailing themes, the settings of the book embraces the cosmopolitan conversation unlike the film which does not. Julius reproduces conversations frequently that later turns out to produce an opportunity for him and the other points of views of other people in the stories at length. These conversations relates sometime to how he improves the social relations with the members of the public. For instance, the conversation scenario of Bootblack and Julius as observed by Cole (62), Julius does not even make a comment on what he has just heard. This let the readers and the audience at large make judgment for themselves. However, the conversations later prove later to be having some resonance kind. In the film of “Do the Right Thing,” the element of conversation is not embraced by the parties. There is racial animosity, class line boundaries in the small town and violence which inhibits people from embracing conversation, and this jeopardize social relations.

The theme of social relations in the book and film also comes in the limelight from the racial tension brought out in the film of “Do the Right Thing.” To begin, there is no one who is a racist including Sal and Buggin but there exist racial tension as stereotype scenario portrays. Lee inserts the white guy who is obnoxious and whose car gets ruined by the black youths. Lee further pointed out that probably everyone had expectation that the police would chase the black youths but that does not happen, they side with the black youths. This shows that racism does not exist and social relation is at its best.

Racial tension exists in the film, and this tries to jeopardize social relations in the city as elaborated by Lee in the film. However, in the book of the “Open City,” pure racism is portrayed and this affects social relations in the city. Apart from other related themes in the book such as colonialism, exploitation and immigration, racism is common. Julius, a Nigerian man who is studying in the land of America is discussed in the African man perspective. He is later accused of rape by another woman while he was still living in Lagos. The narrator recalls that at Madison, he was a medical student and recalls an uncomfortable experience at a dinner when a Ugandan-Indian doctor, who was forced to flee the country by Idi Amin, announced to his guests openly that “when I think of Africans I want to spit” (Cole, 112). The reaction of the narrator is described next “the bitterness was startling. It was anger that I could not help feeling, was directed at me partly, the only African in the room, my background detail, that I was from Nigeria, did not make any difference, because Dr. Gupta had talked of Africans” (Cole, 112). This shows how the narrator faced racism and this drove him to bitterness and anger and consequently affected his social relations with other people.

Social relations in the film are also under attack. The happenings tend to ruin the good social relations in the neighborhood. Buggin is in problem by giving shit to a white man just by stepping on his shoes. Furthermore, he is angry because an Italian America is giving honor to his Italian heritage. Everybody around knows that he is in trouble and when he get escorted out, Mookie gets annoyed by him. In fact, according to Lee, everybody is annoyed and does not understand why an Italian American should not proud of being an Italian. On the hand, Sal is leery and not racist. Although Mookie is uncomfortable with him after him going for his sister, he is a nice person who loves the neighborhoods for giving support.

The theme of social relations in the film and book is also seen in the love and hate of the characters involved. There is a contradiction on Radio Raheem and there exist love and hate in the film of “Do the Right Thing”. Raheem describes himself and he is also intimidating. He roams around blasting loud music and does not interact with anybody. Therefore, he is neutral. He does not build any social relations and seems like a lone ranger. Hate comes in when he gets angry to Sal and finally gets killed because of his actions to show the hate consequences. Raheem and the police were consumed excessively with hatred and Mookie threw the trash can aftermath. Lee pointed out that the title of the play derived its name of “Do the Right Thing” because Mookie was angry and did whatever he could. However, that cannot be said to mean he did the right thing. Similarly in the book of “Open City,” social relations are affected by hatred seen from the narrator when the Indian Ugandan doctor openly declares his hatred for Africans because he was evicted by Idi Amin from Uganda. The narrator also hates the doctor because he detests all Africans and has contempt for them, yet he is an African.

The theme of social relations is ironed and strengthened from the relationships in the film and the book of “Open City.” The novel reveals and shows that even the individuals that form particular cultural or ethnic groups have certain social relationship with one another. The members of particular ethnic or racial affiliations or that have common interests tend or can flock together because they are able to identify with others just like them. Cole (97) pointed out that professional relationships of Julius include interacting with his colleagues. Furthermore, it is a relationship of the patient to doctor that he forms with the patients as a psychologists. In the film of “Do the Right Thing,” the theme of relationships is also portrayed along the racial lines. Sal is brought out as an American Italian in the neighborhood. However, on the wall of his restaurants Lee pointed out that he only sticks the picture of his racial people. Furthermore, the black youth are seen as reacting to what may seem as racial violence. The violence erupts between two racial affiliations. This shows that relations of the people of the same racial identity affiliate themselves.

The societal social problems brought out in the book of “Open City “and film of “Do the Right Thing “also affects social relations.  In the city of New York and the Bedford neighborhoods in Brooklyn, there exist structure continuity and there exists remedies people come up with for the known city life. In the cities are places where thousands or millions of people have to reside together in a small place and therefore the need to look into some of the social problems like the security, transportation, electricity and water supply. For instance, in the film, Mookie is about to be evicted by her sister from her apartments and therefore he will lack housing. Furthermore, insecurity is seen in the neighborhood from the street violence of the black youths and violence experienced in the streets. All these social problems affecting the people affect their social relations. Similarly, in the book of open city, the author talks of the neighbors of Julius who lives in close proximity to the other people. Moreover, Cole (143) explains that in the neighborhood something major can occur in their life without anyone being aware of its existence. He elaborates that “you can live with someone closely and in close proximity but know very little about the happenings in their life” (Cole, 152). That is something which according to Cole (152), anyone residing in the city is related to. This scenario as elaborated by Cole shows the poor state of social relations in the city, and is in sharp contrast with the film. People value their privacy and rarely interact with the neighbors.


In conclusion, both the book of “Open City” and the film of “Do the Right Thing” are written and scripted in different settings. However, much of the themes are shared and comes out clearly in the two literary works. The theme of social relations has been extensively discussed as it is Lee has portrayed it the film and the book “Open City”. Social relations integrate social interaction and other factors that affect it.







Work cited

Cole, Teju. Open City: A Novel. New York: Random House, 2011. Print.

Lee, Spike, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Rosie Perez, Joie S. Lee, John Savage, Samuel L. Jackson, Ernest R. Dickerson, Barry A. Brown, and Bill Lee. Do the Right Thing. Universal City, CA: Universal City Studios, 2001.






We will write a custom sample essay on
Compare and Contrast the Book Open City by Teju Cole and the Film Do the Right Thing by Spike lee.
specifically for you for only $7.00/page