Whatever the book is, characters are like Marmite. You either love them or you hate them. Perhaps you are completely in love with the main character’s best friend, mother, or pet cat, but you just can’t stop loathing the actual main character? I have had many heated arguments with people over my all-time favourite character ‘Amy’ in the brilliant book ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn. She manipulated pretty much everyone she knew, and murdered when dissatisfied. Yes, the definition for evil, right? Anyone who read that book must just hate her. No, absolutely not! Quite frankly I adored her. I adored her brilliance, her intelligence, her needs for revenge. I related to nearly all her feelings towards men and patriarchy, as I am sure many more of my fellow women did. Her description of feeling the need to be ‘cool girl’ for other men, her consistent feeling of needing to win against people who mistreat her, and – most of all for me – being forced to become someone you don’t want to be, because someone is leaving you no choice: being that naggy, irritable, angry girlfriend without even realising. You see others do it and you just think well, I’ll never be like that. You soon realise it is not so easy, as Amy clearly indicates to us in the book.
I feel that the message of the book is simply ‘don’t let them get away with it’. This is where people might get the wrong idea. It’s not as if I am all of a sudden going to frame someone for my murder and then bolt, obviously. It just means I can empathise with her empowerment. The book is not an incitement to violence, it’s evoking the vengeful side in all of us. I’m not agreeing with what Amy did, I’m simply admiring her strength and resilience, not to mention her intelligence! It makes the reader wonder am I capable of that? Could I really do that? Is there an evil side to me? It intrigues us. A common argument is simply, well yeah but she did horrible things, it’s morally wrong, blah blah blah, but that’s not the point. The point of a book (an adults’ book especially) is not to be morally correct, or have a happy-ever-after ending, where the damsel in distress is saved by a mighty male warrior (which is so bleak, let’s be honest here). The point of a book is to involve the reader in a world they may not be used to, to leave questions in their minds, to perhaps even disturb them. You think if Amy bought groceries and watched ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ for the whole book it would still be exciting? Or if she accepted her life as a housewife and stayed obedient? Some will think aw come on man, he only cheated on her, no biggy, completely missing the point of a controversial character. Maybe they should go back to reading children’s books? I don’t know what you think but Amy is my kind of Marmite.
© Martha Lynn