Volume XIV, Number 2, Fall 2018

"Mad Housewife and Cool Girl: Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl as Feminist Metafiction" by Réka Szarvas

Réka Szarvas is a first year Phd-student in the Doctoral School of Literature at the University of Szeged. Her research interests include gender studies, contemporary women’s writing, feminist metafiction and corporeal narratology. Email:

Abstract: The aim of the paper is to interpret Gillian Flynn’s novel, Gone Girl (2012) as a feminist metafictional narrative. The novel belongs to the genre of crime fiction, but it also provides a self-reflective critique on ideologically engendered writerly modes and cultural scripts associated with women. The first half of the paper offers a summary of the theoretical background to the analysis: an overview on metafiction and feminist metafiction that serve as a contextual framework for the succeeding close reading and textual analysis. The second half of the paper examines the novel from the perspective of the traditional formats and subversive recycling of life writing, body studies and female madness.

Keywords: Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl, feminist metafiction, body studies, life writing, madness

1. Introduction

In the world of Gillian Flynn nothing is what it seems. The twists are big, genres are tweaked, the narrators are unreliable, the everyday scripts are mocked, the tropes are subverted. This makes a good case for questioning the sticker on the front cover of her books that reads “Thriller of the Year.” Like most contemporary novels, Flynn’s novels can be categorized into many sub-genres, such as crime fiction, thriller, or suspense novel. However, since Gone Girl not only utilizes literary tropes, genres and topics that are associated with women’s writing but also subverts the ideological preconceptions attached to this gendered label in a highly self-reflective manner, it will be shown that the novel can be read as a specimen of feminist metafiction par excellence.

The popularity of suspense/thriller novels written by female authors is illustrated by the frequency with which they are adapted into movies or series, such as Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies (2014), which is about domestic abuse, Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train (2015), which also deals with domestic abuse and alcoholism, and Gillian Flynn’s novels, where the main parts are played by well-known and critically acclaimed actors, such as Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Rosamund Pike, and Emily Blunt. This interest in novels that consider domestic problems from a female perspective might suggest a shift in topics for filmmaking. Flynn’s novel Gone Girl was adapted into film in 2014 and got nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, amongst other nominations (IMDb 2018).

Gone Girl is about Amy and Nick Dunne’s troubled marriage. In the first half of the book Amy goes missing, and we see the investigation from Nick’s perspective, while getting to know the spouses’ preceding conflicts through the diary of Amy. We learn that Amy had to make a lot of sacrifices for her husband who even cheated on her, and she was afraid that he will hurt her. This information suggests that Nick might be responsible for his wife’s sudden vanishing. However, in the second part of the novel it turns out that the whole diary was fake, and Amy staged her kidnapping to get revenge on her husband. After Amy comes home she is able to convince the police that she was indeed kidnapped, and she artificially inseminates herself in order to have a child with Nick, who at the end stays with her. Although Flynn’s novels have been accused of misogyny (Burkemann 2013), and they do not necessarily communicate an explicit feminist message, the framework of the books and the fact that they clearly subvert genres, literary tropes and female scripts makes them exciting candidates for feminist metafictions.

2. Feminist Metafiction

Metafiction is fiction about fiction. It emphasizes the artificiality of a text in order to criticize itself. It is a mode of writing rather than a genre, or, as Patricia Waugh explains it in her book, “is a tendency or function inherent in all novels” (Waugh 2001, 5). Metafiction creates a border between the reader and the writing with the help of self-reflectivity that alienates the reader in order to shine a light on the constructed nature of everyday life and personal identities. It exaggerates the “tensions and oppositions inherent in all novels: of frame and frame-break, of technique and counter- technique, of construction and deconstruction of illusion” (Waugh 2001, 14). Waugh says that metafiction is interested most of all in mimesis, how writing can “reflect, construct and mediate (…) [the] experience of the world,” and how language constructs our sense of reality (Waugh 2001, 3).

Linda Hutcheon in her article “Subject in/of/to History and His Story” talks about a type of metafiction that is inherently post-modernist and comments on identification, subjectivity and sexuality, especially sexual identity and the representation of women. Since these texts are political and often historical, she coined the term “historiographic metafiction”. The genre’s significant aspect is the “subversion of the stability of point of view,” by the multitude of perspectives, the manipulative narrators, or by problematizing subjectivity (Hutcheon 1986, 79-80). However, from the perspective of feminist literary criticism these attributes can be related to feminist metafiction, which according to Greene “draw[s] attention to the structures of fiction (…) [and] to the conventionality of the codes that govern human behavior, to reveal how such codes have been constructed and how they can therefore be changed” (Greene 1991, 1-2) with special attention paid to feminist issues. Greene also points out that a writer does not have to be a feminist in order for their work to be classified as feminist metafiction. She mentions as an example Margaret Atwood, who likes to distance herself and her work from the category of “feminist writing” to avoid strict categorizations (Greene 1991, 2-3), but her novels – for example Lady Oracle (1976) and The Handmaid’s Tale (1986) – fulfil the criteria of feminist metafiction by exploring “women’s efforts at liberation in relation to problems of narrative form, fiction that destabilizes the conventions of realism in a project of psychic and social transformation” (Greene 1991, 1).

The defining features of feminist metafiction is based on the techniques and interests of post-modernist metafiction, such as irony, even parody, and textual self-consciousness – the texts are preoccupied with form. Moreover, they revisit, doubt, question and even subvert literary traditions and conventions, such as the codes, sequences and rules of genres (Bromberg 1990, 5) (Greene 1991, 3) (Hite 1988, 481). What makes these metanarratives feminist is the fact that there is a female protagonist who confronts the existing literary traditions, and that in these texts women are writing about women. There is a focus on the (mis)representation of women in literature, on taking apart the hierarchy of genres –which has a political stake–, and on the subjectivity and agency of the characters.

Hutcheon states that the use of irony in postmodernist (metafictional) texts both inscribes and subverts the object of the parody, which results in a compromised standpoint – criticism cannot happen from the outside, because especially metafiction is always already embedded in discourse. The target of the parody is often a “master narrative,” which, according to Hutcheon, in the case of feminism is the patriarchy. However, I want to add that in recent days with intersectional feminism there is a stress on class and race as well. Hutcheon sees the difference between postmodernism and feminism in their political standpoints, which could be threatened by the “double coding,” the compromised standpoint of postmodernism. They both intend to highlight the connection between social practices and culture, “but feminisms are not content with exposition: art forms cannot change unless social practices do.” Exposition is important, but not enough (Hutcheon 1994, 186-189). Feminist metafiction questions the traditions of literature, (female) representation, and the subjectivity in life-writing. These re-evaluate the separation of public and private writings, “the context of historical narrative and the politics of representation and self-representation” (Hutcheon 1994, 189-190).

Molly Hite argues that Hutcheon is part of a tradition that tries to “politicize experimental writing” by connecting metafiction and feminism, but doing so is also a way to look for a critical practice that will get away from the essentialist notion of “female experience” that predominates culture (Hite 1988, 482). Metafiction is a great tool for this on the one hand because of its subversive nature, and on the other because it problematizes the borders between categories such as frame and embedded narrative, or dominant and subordinate, and by doing so it can shed light to the instability of other dichotomies, like feminine and masculine gender identity, or consequently feminine and masculine writing. Hite sees metafictional novels written by women writers as novels which destabilize the very generic frame/writerly mode of metafiction; and she problematizes the ideological engendering of cultural products and literary texts. These texts differ from the literary tradition of early metanarratives, for example from Cervantes or Sterne, or postmodernist novels in that sexual difference comes into consideration in the case of the problematization of the possibility of mimetic representation, which is a central aspect of metanarratives: “the experience of the author as a gendered subject [might have] some bearing on her production” (Hite 1988, 483). When talking about Doris Lessing’s novels, Hite writes:

If Lessing’s novel is gendered differently than the works most frequently cited as examples of metafictional narrative, it was also engendered differently, arising out of concerns that have everything to do with the mimesis of personal experience, even though they function as a sustained critique both of traditional mimesis and of the unitary person who is the traditional subject of the experience thus imitated. (Hite 1988, 484)

Peters cites Kristeva, when talking about “woman’s voice:” its difference does not come from some “essential female qualities,” but from the “difference from the language of established patriarchal systems” (Peters 2002, 3). The female voice was often used as a “semiotic other” to help perform new ways of writing. However, Peters argues that when a female voice is used in order to privilege a marginalized discourse by female writers, it creates a gendered paradigm, because othering female language is the result of a male tradition. But when the discourse is juxtaposed against a “patriarchal norm,” it automatically becomes feminist (Peters 2002, 3-11).

As feminist metafiction subverts and challenges the literary tradition that Hutcheon calls “master narrative” (Hutcheon 1994, 186), it subverts and rewrites the tradition and the rules, and rebels against the heteronormative expectations that bound women.

3. What Makes the Novel Metafictional…

Gone Girl can be identified with the above described style. The central character, Amy, is the inspiration and namesake for a children’s book series called Amazing Amy. Her parents are psychologists and tell stories of an exceptional little girl throughout her course of growing up. However, when their real-life child Amy makes a mistake or cannot achieve something, instead of comforting her or teaching her a moral, they fictionalize the flesh-and-blood child’s clumsiness in a new book in the series, where the alter ego, Amazing Amy, does the same thing perfectly. The parents exploit their child’s life and commodify an idealized version of their offspring’s identity in order to gain authorial success, where the girl becomes a “muse,” stripped of her own identity, without agency.

Amy and Nick both are writers. Nick is a newspaper critic, while Amy, a trained psychologist, writes quizzes for a women’s magazine. They are the two narrators of the novel, and them being writers has a huge significance in the story and in the novel: they know how to use words, they are able to tell a narrative, they are aware of the effects that words and omissions can have on the reader, and most of all they know how to manipulate the reader. We learn day by day that Nick was at first manipulating the reader by leaving information out and making him seen nicer than he actually might be, while in the middle of the novel the reader learns that the whole diary of Amy was entirely fake and written only for the purpose of making her husband seem guilty of her murder. They are in a constant race with each other to gain the trust of the reader. This is a metafictional commentary on writerly competition of male and female creative artists, to gain the favor of the reading public that represents also the struggle to validate competing versions of reality, where there is a female and a masculine version.

The diary inserted in the text creates mise-en-abîme, working as fiction-in-fiction. The quizzes that often pop up in the parts narrated by Amy further reinforce the embedded narrative. The reader also learns that both Amy and Nick aspire to write the story of their marriage. It is suggested that this results in the book the reader holds in their hand, in which they both serve as narrators, and the ending of the story is the beginning of the book. This creates an effect in the narration like a Moebius-strip or a snake biting its own tail. Amy also practices her (re)writing abilities in real life: as a writer, she creates different personalities for herself depending on what the situation demands, and she also tries to shape her husband to be his ideal self, rewriting his and her personality, playing the god-like creator of narrative. This way she is both an author of the novel and the author of their life, with Nick’s equally manipulative voice leaking into the text. We can speculate that it is indeed Nick’s voice because Amy writes: “I am officially in control of our story. […] I will write him the way I want him to be: romantic and thoughtful and very very repentant” (Flynn 2013, 453). If Amy were writing Nick’s story, the hatred he feels toward his wife could not be a part of the narration.

As has been established, feminist metafictions are self-aware narratives that subvert the dominant (literary) discourse. After observing the novel’s self-aware qualities in the next part of the paper I analyze the narrative from the perspective of women’s writing and show how Gone Girl subverts the (stereotypical) female literary tradition.

4. … and What Makes it Feminist

Life Writing

Smith and Watson define life writing as a general term for a text that is centered on the life of a person, and it “can be biographical, novelistic, historical, or an explicit self-reference to the writer” (Smith & Watson 2001, 3). Diaries are a particular form of life writing that deal with the mundane everyday life of a person, or as Hogan sees it:

fragmentary, constructed by associative rather than logical connections, concentrating on the everyday (for which to some extent read "trivial" and "ephemeral"), lacking a sense of the architectonics of shape or plot, non-teleological – is somehow feminine; while the autobiography – finished, polished, carefully constructed, providing a shaped image of existence seen from the teleological perspective of the end of a life – is somehow masculine. (Hogan 1991, 96)

As this quote shows, diary is a gendered genre that has been frequently labelled a feminine writerly mode. It is an intimate (art) form, and can be associated with the domestic sphere, which is also considered feminine. The diary is secretive. It contains a person’s inner life. Private, often it is hidden from everyone else, even closed with a lock. Its aesthetic can be linked to the overflowing, fragmentary, associative style of l’écriture féminine, the French feminists’ idea of female writing. The texts are frequently fragmentary; they subvert the structure of an organized text. They have their own structure and governing rules, changing from person to person, and even from time to time. The unfinished, fluid, ever-changing nature of the diary might come from the topic, which besides cataloguing the day’s events often serves as the container of feelings. This non-hierarchical, fragmentary way of writing that is without selection or perspective can be described with parataxis, which is the main formal feature of a diary. Parataxis on the level of grammar refers to words and phrases put together without connecting words, while on the level of narrative it refers to the particular organizing principle of diaries (Hogan 1991, 98-103). Diary writing is an important narrative engine in the novel. In Gone Girl diary writing is done in an overt, usual manner; however, its use and purpose are drastically different from a stereotypical diary.

Gone Girl is written from a double perspective: every odd chapter is narrated by Nick, and every even chapter is narrated by Amy. Amy’s diary from the first part of the novel is like a usual, almost stereotypical diary, as described above. It administers the main events and everyday nuances of Amy’s life. The writing is full of descriptions. It captures her train of thought and overflows with emotion: “I am fat with love! Husky with ardor! Morbidly obese with devotion! A happy, busy bumblebee of marital enthusiasm.” (Flynn, 2013, 43) However in the second part of the novel (Part Two: Boy Meets Girl) the narration from the perspective of Amy starts from the day she went missing, where the book started from the perspective of Nick. Here she confesses that the whole diary was a lie, a fictional rewriting of her married life. She invented a persona, “Diary Amy,” a naïve, likeable version of herself, and wrote diary entries for all seven years of their life, twice a month, retrospectively. In order to have the truth value associated with life writing she researched the current events, her own daily planners, and recreated a way she would have been reacting to the events in her life if she were “Diary Amy.”

Hogan argues that the audience of a diary ranges from “the private self to the wider audience of a published diary” (Hogan 1991, 97), but even when it is published, the diary is not written with an audience in mind. Amy’s diary is different from this point of view, since it is written with a purpose for a specific audience. Her aim is to incriminate her husband, to persuade everyone that he had a motive to kill her, and her fake diary is the best evidence: not only is it a meticulous record of their everyday life, but it also contains Amy’s hypotheses about her husband’s behavior and her thoughts and fears:

I catch him looking at me with those watchful eyes, the eyes of an insect, pure calculation, and I think: This man might kill me.
So if you find this and I’m dead, well…
Sorry, that’s not funny. (Flynn 2013, 231)

Amy says that she wrote the diary in order to resemble a “Gothic tragedy” and fine-tuned her personality (the “Cool Girl,” which I will expand on later) and the events in order for everybody to fall in love with her, pity her, and turn against her husband. Her chosen audience is the police and the media, and she even considers the general public in case the diary gets published. Amy deliberately chooses the expressions and style associated with women’s diaries in order to reach a goal she had in mind. The police find her diary and after matching the writing with Amy’s handwriting, they handle it as a core evidence, never questioning the truth value of the text. Her taking advantage of the privacy and truth feature of the diary subverts the genre. Flynn used this tool of women’s writing, the diary in her novel, but she used it unlike the tradition of the genre would suggest: in Gone Girl the truth value and the secrecy is corrupted.

Writing on the Body

Susan Bordo in “The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity” (1997) discusses, relying amongst others on Foucault’s insights, that the body is a “medium of culture” and a site of social control. From an early age, from hygiene through eating to everyday routines, bodies are disciplined into cultural products with the help of the Ideological State Apparatuses – the family, the school, the church (Althusser 1970) in order to fit into society. There is an ever-changing ideal that bodies are compared to, and to achieve it they have to be disciplined, normalized. Bordo argues that female bodies are particularly vulnerable and exposed to this phenomenon because of fashion, diets and makeup. Through following and attending the constantly changing societal expectations, female bodies become “docile bodies – bodies whose forces and energies are habituated to external regulation, subjection, transformation, ‘improvement’” (Bordo 1997, 91). The constant management of the female body reinforces the gendered oppression of women that varies across age, race, class and sexuality. Moreover, as the ideals connected to the docile female body shifted throughout time, the female body became a “text of femininity” revealing the ideological and political background of gender construction (Bordo 1997, 93). However, it can also be written on and rewritten through body-modifying processes (Jeffreys 2000, 422). When following the regulatory practices of these feminine ideals, women might damage their bodies by going to the extremes (Bordo 1997, 90-94).

Shaw in “Shifting Conversations on Girls’ and Women’s Self-Injury: An Analysis of the Clinical Literature in Historical Context” (2002) writes that self-injury is a way for women to express their concerns and anxieties in culture; moreover, how women who hurt themselves are portrayed and treated is also embedded in culture and society. Self-injury is intentional, non-life-threatening harm of the body that is socially unacceptable. It is not of suicidal nature, it is even described as “anti-suicidal,” it is a way to manage distress, and it is also a way to regain control over one’s body (Shaw 2002, 191-202). There are two ways in which women hurt their bodies: for and against the cultural norms. The former involves all the plucking, starving, injecting, and operating that helps achieve the Western idea of a fashionable, docile body. Going against the prescribed care for the body can result in a body modification that is more inclined to be understood as self-harm. If regimenting the body goes to the extremes, we can talk about pathological eating disorders, such as anorexia, or obsession with plastic surgery (Shaw 2002, 206-7). Jeffreys argues that the everyday beauty practices that help achieve the ideal female body are not problematized enough, because they are seen as the choice of the individual. At the same time, there is a concept called “sado-ritual syndrome” that explains how these practices work: for example, there is an obsession with purity, orderliness, repetition, and the male and societal responsibility is overlooked (Jeffreys 2000, 425-426).

In Gone Girl, Amy creates a persona for herself, called “Cool Girl” based on societal expectations. This idealized woman has a personality to appeal to men, but it also comes with strict bodily rules. As Amy explains: “[the Cool Girl] drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot” (Flynn 2013, 250-251). The physical description of the Cool Girl is a critique on the demands of the female body. It illustrates the functioning of the idealization of the body: the Cool Girl is a myth that does not exists, it is only a pretense, and once it becomes the “norm,”,” the expectation, the male interest shifts to another variation of a feminine ideal (Flynn 2013, 250-252). Being this persona requires constant physical attention to the body, and when Amy stops serving the ideal and gains weight on the run, she notices that she feels relieved not to be constantly controlling her weight, hair and skin (Flynn 2013, 281-282). She deliberately gains weight, which is criticized by Desi, her old lover, who helps her hide after Amy’s original plans backfires. Amy’s beauty is often emphasized during the search for her. She looks like an ideal woman: long, blonde hair, fair skin, slim body. People care for her and have sympathy for her because of her beauty. When her parents choose a picture for the “missing” posters and the media to use, they picked one where she looks like a movie start, trying to appeal to the public’s affection for pretty women. Through Amy’s character Gone Girl illuminates the problem with the Western beauty ideals that are imposed on women while subverting and criticizing the docility of the female body.

Literary Madness

Elaine Showalter’s historical overview in The Female Malady (1987) demonstrates that insanity, madness and mental health is just as gendered a subject as diary writing, for example. Although in most analyses female madness is used as a figure and as a metaphor, like in Gilbert and Gubar’s seminal text on the connection between nineteenth century female writers and madness, The Madwoman in the Attic (1979), the history of the “female malady” has its roots in asylums and statistics – medical records show that women constituted the majority of patients in mental hospitals. Showalter points out that madness was originally called the English malady, in the Augustan era the madman was the cultural image associated with asylums, while Romanticism turned toward the young and beautiful female victim of insanity, and the madwoman became a cult figure seen as a victim of “paternal tyranny” or male oppression (Showalter 1987, 8-10). Nineteenth century philosophy also emphasized the correlation between women and madness: in the dichotomous idealism men were associated with reason, discourse, culture and the mind, while women were connected to irrationality, the body, silence and nature. Feminist writers appropriated this cultural connection of women and madness and used it as a metaphor in the rebellion against male authority, protesting against the patriarchal tradition (Showalter 1987, 3-6). The madwoman figure thus became a tool to highlight the culturally-constructed nature of femininity and madness, and to intervene into the patriarchal systematic representation of women. Since its appropriation from the patriarchal representation of women, the figure of the madwoman can also work as a metacritical device for feminism: it can draw attention to the problematic situatedness of being excluded and imprisoned within discourse at the same time (Schlichter 2003, 310-311). Schlichter says that especially in postmodern feminist texts the figure of the madwoman is a critic of representation, culture and dominant discourses (Schlichter 2003, 324).

However, the madwoman was not only represented in feminist critical texts. During the 1960s and 1970s there were more than ten novels published that Greene calls “mad housewife fiction”. Greene lists as an example The Bell Jar (1963) by Sylvia Plath, Penelope Mortimer’s The Pumpkin Eater (1962) and Sue Kaufman’s The Diary of a Mad Housewife (1966), saying that they are commenting on women’s socialization and sexualization. The novels express parts of the female life that were considered taboo, such as sexuality, body image, and pregnancy, while describing the trap, the “vicious circle” that the domestic life is – they are the fictional counterparts to Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963). Greene argues that these novels raise consciousness of how housewives live and how an “ideal” feminine is constructed through society and culture: women are supposed to spend their days regimenting their docile bodies to become beautiful or become mothers to fulfil their otherwise boring life – because they have to choose between being a wife or having a career (Greene 1991, 61-62). When women find these problematic and turn to help, they are advised to “conform to the feminine role.” Psychology put the blame on women, and they were “going mad all by themselves” (Greene 1991, 63-64). The feminist consciousness-raising of these novels, however, provides women a sense of shared experience and a connection to female figures that had similar life experiences to them.

Flynn’s novel evokes these “mad housewife fictions” as literary predecessors, as metafictional intertexts. The novel problematizes marriage, family life, body image, femininity and motherhood. In Gone Girl after both Amy and Nick lose their jobs and move back to Nick’s hometown, Amy finds herself in a situation similar to the protagonists’ in “mad housewife fiction”. Not having a job, she is in a big house alone all day, and her only job is to take care of and beautify the house and herself. Her only activities are administered by her mother-in-law: how to shop, do charity work, and so on. Doing nothing it is no wonders, that she has gone crazy, the reader might think, since in “mad housewife fictions” women’s insanity is caused by their confinement. The novel however uses this genre to criticize the institution of marriage: Nick’s mother comments during the engagement party that marriage is a compromise, and she often wished she have never done it. The “solution” to the problems at the end of the novel sounds just like coming from the time of the “mad housewife fiction”: having a child as a universal problem-solver. However, in Gone Girl it only renders the state of crisis between Nick and Amy permanent, subverting the above-mentioned trope.

Moreover, the character of Amy is an unusual madwoman. She embodies all three madwomen figures from the nineteenth century: her public image bears the pure looks of the suicidal Ophelia, and she also plans to kill herself by drowning in the river; she is like the sentimental Crazy Jane, who is beautiful, feminine, has a docile body, and is abandoned by her lover; and she is also a violent Lucia, who is sexual and doesn’t fear using violence against men to escape the bondage of femininity (Showalter 1987, 16-17). What makes Amy different from these archetypes is that she seemingly has agency and purpose. However, her agency is an illusion, as she cannot escape the patriarchal heteronormative way of life: everything she has done throughout the novel led to her become a traditional embodiment of a housewife; and simultaneously she trapped her husband with the publicized promise of a child and a happy marriage exposing him to the inspecting eye of the public.

5. Conclusion

The aim of this paper was to interpret Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl as feminist metafiction. The novel, written as crime thriller, gained popularity and was even adapted into a film. However, the novel explores topics and genres that are connected to women’s writing and does so in a self-reflexive manner, making a feminist metafictional reading possible. Feminist metafiction is a mode of writing that comments on writing, reflects on the constructed nature of novelistic reality and focuses on “feminine” writing and the representation and cultural expectations targeting women. Feminist metafiction revisits traditionally male and female genres and cultural conventions, and rewrites, criticizes and subverts them. Gone Girl is a self-reflective narrative commenting both on the writerly agency of the creative artist and on the author as a subject of narration. Three major themes in the novel can be connected to women’s writing and femininity: life writing, the female body and the figure of the madwoman. Their presence in the novel is interconnected. In the part life writing I wished to argue that diary was a gendered genre. Traditional notions of diary-writing such as truth-value were subverted in Gone Girl with a fake diary. The docile female body and the expectations towards women were criticized, as Gone Girl highlights the physical idealization of women’s body and Amy’s rebellion against the normativity of Western feminine body images. The novel also uses the mad housewife fiction from the sixties as an intertextual example to comment on the ideologies and constraints of being a housewife. Gone Girl blurs the boundaries of the traditionally male genres. It subverts the idealized gender roles and reflects on the political agency on the writer. Although the novel was explored through specific notions, these overlap and influence each other. Gillian Flynn’s writing offers an exciting viewpoint on women’s life, constantly challenging the representation of women in contemporary fiction. Her novels invite more analysis, especially as this paper could only scratch the surface.


I would like to thank my supervisor, Anna Kérchy for her help in inspiring and shaping this text, and Daniel Nyikos for his comments and editing.


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