The anti-hero character has slowly become a popular part of modern literature largely because of the appeal the character brings to the audience. This particular character type engages in actions, which go against society’s set rules. These acts do become a form of wish fulfillment for the audience, as they can live through the character. In turn, the character becomes more relatable because he or she has an imperfect nature. Through the characters of Anny Dunne and Libby Day in Gillian Flynn’s books, Dark Places, and Gone Girl, anti-hero characters are intriguing and exciting because of their contradicting personality characteristics and unclear goals, which create realistic characters the audience, can appeal to.
The anti-hero acts as the opposite of a traditionally recognized heroic figure because they make morally questionable choices, fall into human temptations, and often challenge the boundaries placed by the authority within a given society. They are flawed and constantly willing to go beyond set society boundaries (Amato 5). These characters are not opposed to harming other people to achieve their set goals and might suffer from infidelity, substance abuse, as well as narcissism. On the first impression, anti-heroes seem unlikable, untrustworthy, and criminal but I believe what makes them likable is the fact that as one learns their stories, you can slowly tell their reasons for engaging in certain actions. This reasoning leads one to start rooting for their character. For instance, Libby’s character spends the first part of the novel constantly feeling guilty about her mother and sister’s murder but eventually uses her anger to gain revenge (Flynn, Dark Places, 18). On the other hand, Amy creates different evil plans and carries out her actions based entirely on the need to punish her husband for not only cheating but also playing a role in the destruction of their marriage (Flynn, Gone Girl, 29). I think that as the storyline for the anti-hero grows and develops, the audiences can slowly see a character that is more realistic, human as well as relatable than any of the heroic figures present in the story. As a result, the audience becomes familiar with the anti-hero, which then makes it likely for them to forgive any negative behavior. The reasoning behind this can be seen in the character of Amy Dunne. All through Gone Girl, Flynn slowly starts to show the reader the reasons behind each of Amy’s actions (Flynn, Gone Girl, 39). Flynn’s decision to slowly enlighten the reader as opposed to opening with incomplete and negative ideas about Amy would have made readers less willing to either connect or like the character.
The female protagonists who appear in Dark Places and Gone Girl represent characters who continuously challenge the expectations of the reader and any previous ideas created by the reader about the main character. For instance, in Dark Places, Libby’s character comes across as unrealizable but this is attributed to the trauma she faced as a child and her mother and sisters’ murders, which continuously fill her mind with guilt. The guilt is also a result of the fact that Libby was forced to give coached evidence of her brother’s participation within the murders. For instance, Libby tells Barb Eichel, the writer of a book on the murders of the Day family members, why the testimony she gave was untrue. While Libby is angry when Barb suggests that Libby seemed to have been coached to give the testimony, she does agree on the possibility that Barb might not be completely wrong (Flynn, Dark Places, 57). This particular scene might encourage the readers to question why Libby would openly lie about something as serious as the murder of her family but the fact that she was young and traumatized might lead them to forgive her. In Gone Girl, there is a suggestion that Amy’s character might have faked her murder and blamed it on another person because of the trauma caused by having to witness her husband engaging in an affair (Flynn, Gone Girl, 386). Amy’s crime of framing Nick for a death he did not commit is justified because not only she suffered through the shock and betrayal of the affair but also because she had a perfect plan which is proof of her intelligence.
Both Libby Day and Amy Dunne are characters driven by particular motivations but which are meant to achieve the greater good. For instance, Amy feels wronged by people in her life, such as her parents and her husband, which leads her to go on a search for justice using her means. She only punishes those who she thinks might have treated her wrongly by threatening them with humiliation, lying, and fear and in some cases death (Flynn, Gone Girl, 45). Even though Libby’s actions are not as extreme, she still uses manipulation, lying, and stealing to punish those who caused her pain (Flynn, Dark Places, 52). I believe that their personalities are appealing to the reader because, in each instance, their actions are driven by their difficult life circumstances. Essentially, there is a suggestion that if both female characters had not gone through such a challenging life they would have made better life choices.
In conclusion, the anti-heroes in Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places and Gone Girl are unique because of their flawed nature. They suffer from guilt and a sense of revenge. They punish those who hurt them and are willing to do anything to achieve their goals. Both Libby day and Amy Dunne have difficult lives; they are forced to go through immense amounts of pain and suffering. Instead of moving on with their lives, they choose to seek revenge and punish those who caused them this pain. This aspect is what separates the anti-hero from the traditional hero as he or she acts in a way that most people would not have the courage to. Their decisions reveal more of their humanity than what traditional heroes do.
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Amato, Sara A. “Female Anti-Heroes in Contemporary Literature, Film, and Television.” 2016. Senior Thesis, Eastern Illinois University. https://thekeep.eiu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3482&context=theses
Flynn, Gillian. Dark Places. Broadway Books, 2009.
Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl. Broadway Books, 2012.