“Gone Girl” and the Reality of Domestic Violence

gone girl 2 I’ll stop you right here if you haven’t read the book yet. Spoilers are one of the worst things on this planet so if you want to read Gillian Flynn’s best selling novel: Stop! Go no further! I would hate to ruin someone’s perception of the novel.

The book did that for me by itself.

“Gone Girl,” published in 2012 (I know – I’m late. Wanted to read it before I saw the movie) is a novel of stomach turning twists, meant to make the reader go through a roller-coaster of emotions. Gillian Flynn had me in her palm until the major plot twist surfaced less than half way through the book.

Nick Dunne finds his wife, Amy, is missing and is quickly suspected of murder. The readers know early in the beginning that he is lying to the police, but about what, we don’t know. The readers get to know Amy through a series of diary entries, dating back to when she and her husband first met. We are instantly on Amy’s side, especially when we find out that Nick has been cheating on her. And then – plot twists of all plot twists – we find out that Amy is not who she claims to be.

A conniving, vengeful woman, Amy faked her death and is framing Nick for cheating on her. We thought we knew Amy – but we have no idea.

Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play Nick and Amy Dunne is the newly released theatrical version of "Gone Girl"
Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike play Nick and Amy Dunne in the newly released theatrical version of “Gone Girl”

I understand wanting to write an interesting book. I understand taking true crime, a topic so focused on in American media, and turning it on its head is a great way to sell a novel.

But the reality is: this isn’t reality. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Women are more likely to be killed by their partner and every year, 1 in 3 women who are a victim of homicide is killed by her current or former partner.

Even though Amy’s character turn made me keep reading, it also made me a little sick and even annoyed. When Nick realizes his wife is framing him, he fantasizes about ACTUALLY killing her. I was furious. At first, I disliked Nick and liked Amy, then I disliked Amy and liked Nick (at least a little) and then I ended up hating both of them.

This could have been Gillian Flynn’s plan all along: create two characters so miserable that readers can’t stand either. It is different, I can give it that. But when I think about all the women who are currently being abused, women like Laci Peterson who was killed by her husband in 2002, I am angered and saddened that this book trivializes domestic violence.

Last week, my fiction writing professor applauded a peer for writing about a controversial topic. “Not everyone is going to like what you write about,” he said, “but with fiction, you have to be unapologetic and write what you want to write.”

Fiction may not be real, but there are plenty of real people who may read a story and think “this is okay.” And that terrifies me.

What do you think?

What are you thoughts on Flynn’s novel or the upcoming film?

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