Fiction novels have been used as a resource for individuals to explore not only their creativity, but also as a way to enter new worlds that one may never have thought of existing. Since I can remember, romantic novels have always been a go to for women all around the world. It’s a way of loosing yourself in a life in a world full of what-ifs and endless possibilities. But even in thriller, crime focused novels we still see women being depicted as faulty. I have been focusing a lot of my studies on women studies and how it’s played a part in our history as well as how it’s affected our lives today. Looking specifically at fiction novels, I would like to explore the ideas that look at novels depicting women as manipulating/evil characters and how it effects on young female adults.
Over many centuries, it’s been under the assumption that women around the world are to be subordinate to men. We have made women out to be a couple of different “characters” in today’s world. Think about all the media that surrounds us too. We have women being looked at as sexual objects, as manipulating/evil creatures, put into mothering categories, and being apart of nature (mother nature). In romantic novels, they have depicted women just as the same way. While authors like Nicholas Sparks has used both male and female figures as having faults that need to be “fixed” to become the ideal mate, mostly his characters as well as others are female.
One of my most recent favorite authors, Gillian Flynn, is the author of some of my favorite books like Gone Girl, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects; ATTENTION: SPOILER ALERTS! Within all three books she has written, while all amazing thrillers, she has depicted women as being strong individuals. She has shown them as knowing exactly what they want and incredibly independent. While her characters have been strongly developed (you can envision exactly what they look like, exactly how they think, and their exact environment) she always has the women figure as being emotionally unstable. On the surface, you would never think this to be the case, but when digging deeper into each book, you see the emotional inconsistencies that are taking place.
In Gone Girl, the novel explores in between both Nick and Amy Dunes minds and actions. Nick is placed in the dark in an unexplained murder of his wife Amy, that seems to have disappeared. As we continue to read, we learn that Amy has set Nick up for the murder of herself because she knows he’s been cheating on her with one of his college students and feels as if their love has disappeared. The twist is she’s incredibly mentally unstable and manipulating. She convinces Nick that after all the Hell she’s put him through with the police and investigation of her “missing” body and months of searching, that they need and deserve to be together. One of the main themes through this book is we see dishonesty and devious behavior by the female.
When Amy goes missing for months, we see her independence taking over. She appears to have her life in order. Little do you know, she is completely emotionally unstable and finds enjoyment of playing twisted games on her husband and other men. While Amy is highly intelligent (considering she can get away with murder), Flynn paints this picture of a tormented, emotionally unstable woman that needs to be saved by a man. Whenever her life seems to becoming harder than what she was expecting, we see her changing her train of thought of how she can go back home to her husband without getting caught. Her memories take charge and she puts an intense guilt trip on her husband to take her back, even though she designed a plan to make him the leading suspect of a murder investigation with absolutely no extra room for him to move in.
Sharp Objects is my favorite novel that she wrote. It’s primary character is Camille who has been sent to her hometown to investigate a series of murder of female children for the paper she writes for. Hesitant to go home, she stays with her family. While investigating the murders, Camille is realizing the strong connection she has with the victims as well as her half sister. Even though Camille has been depicted as a strong, leading woman character, she has a habit of cutting words over her whole body. While her demons are still standing strong, we see her mother starve for perfection and control.
With the novel ending with Camille in a bathtub drugged by her mother, Camille’s love interest sees’ the words engraved on her body and becomes disguised by her past and leaves her. Her mother ends up being the murder to all the children, including Camille’s sister many years prior. Her mother was depicted as needed to contain full control. She needed to feel “wanted” like so many mothers and young adults that she went to unnecessary measures of killing the young girls around her.
With popular fiction finally getting more recognition and now turing into major motion pictures, it makes me wonder the effects it has on young female adults. I would like to believe that people still use novels as a tool for using their imagination, I wonder if young adults read these types of books with the outlook that they need to change who they are in order for them to get their way. Like mentioned earlier, women have been viewed as sexual objects and it has been under the impression, if you look a specific way it’s more likely than not you can use that to get what you want. But I believe that it’s being taken another step further by informing women that it’s okay to use ALL measures of a woman’s essence to get what you want. Whether it’s murder or a man, manipulation and pulling the “crazy” card is okay because it’s expected.
While doing some extra research, I learned that like most best selling novels these day, Gone Girl is being turned into a major motion picture. I won’t deny that I won’t go see it, but for me, novels are a way to use my creativity and try and tap into what the author wants us to see. It’s as if I’ve created the movie I want to see in my mind. Considering literacy and the notion of WANTING to read has shifted dramatically over the years, most young females will be seeing the movie rather than reading it. With physical imagery taking over, I feel as though this is just reassuring women it’s okay to have a multi level personality. That it’s just the norm.
A good author can take it’s reader into the mind set of each character. Where the visual needs are only needed by them. The description they use, showing instead of telling, getting into the minds of each character is all they need. Once the reader is hooked, it’s almost as they become the character. In that moment, the reader takes on the characteristics that the character might posses. For instance, Amy in Gone Girl had a very kind, mischievous way about her. While the reader won’t go out and create a fictitious murder (hopefully not), he or she might take personality cues from her knowing she can use them later on if she’s ever in a bind.
Our culture has painted many stereotypes for women which makes it difficult for females around the world understand it’s okay to be who they are emotionally and physically. With the impact of all literature, we see women still struggle to find a place in the world; even in thriller novels. With manipulation being the main source of how young women “get away with murder” it’s reassuring females that by using the complexity of the mind, they can not only use their bodies to get their way but also by using the mind. This also warns men to be on guard; they’re coming for you in more ways that one. I love non-fiction novels and they will continue to play a strong role in my life, but because of this, has this created a conflict of personality in me? Is this why depression and personality disorders are more common in women than men? The importance of literature should be consistently encouraged, but how do we make the shift in depicting women as a strong individual that doesn’t need to be saved or using her “womanly ways” against the world?