This comparative analysis will closely examine the two key characters from Gone Girl, Nick and Amy Dunne. The narratological term ‘mind style’, will be employed as the main tool of analysis for this article.
Mind Style is a term used in narrative which concentrates on the speech and thought process of a character. The term was coined by Roger Fowler in 1977, who described mind style as “any distinctive linguistic representation of an individual mental self” (1977, P.103).
Fowler suggests that the linguistic choices made by a character and author will allow a reader to interpret the character in greater depth than what is told or written about the character. He suggests that a reader can judge a character by their thoughts and dialogue, which defines their personality, social standing, intellect, world view and values.
Culpeper (2001) supports Fowler’s definition as he describes mind style as a feature of characterisation, “a particular aspect of characterisation: one’s impression of the mental properties and habits of an individual.” Culpeper (p.288).
McIntyre (2006) also explains what effect mind style has on a character; ‘to reflect the way that they [a character] conceptualise and make sense of the world around them.’ McIntyre (p.142).
These definitions focus on mind style as a narratological tool; providing readers with a better insight into a character’s disposition via their lexical choices and mental & physical behaviour. This is the framework that I will be applying for my comparative analysis of Gone Girl.
I decided to focus on mind style because I feel that it is an effective tool which, in my opinion, is often overlooked. Mind style allows an author to demonstrate rather than state information to a reader – providing deeper traits of a character to be presented via linguistic choices and mental processes.
Yamamoto (2006) argues that mind style ‘can display an individual’s ‘preoccupations’, ‘prejudices’, ‘perspectives’ and ‘values’, which strongly bias one’s world-view.’ (p.5) Although bias, it allows the reader to empathise and think like the character, enabling them to truly enter their world.
Mind style pairs seamlessly with written fiction because fiction is an opportunity for readers to be or see a world as somebody else; ultimately living another’s life vicariously. This view shows that if mind style is considered by the author when writing, then the character will be more realistic and viable for a reader; allowing them to imagine themselves as the character. This could be seen as the closest opportunity for a human being to actually become someone else.
My claim is supported by Elena Semino who said, “one of the main attractions of reading fiction is that it can give us a convincing and involving impression of what it is like to be somebody else – to do, feel and think things that are not part of our own personal experience.” Semino (2007, P.3)
After further reading, I concluded that mind style is most effective in writing that is written in a first person narrative. My claim is supported by Fludernik, who said, “This concept [mind style] characterizes a way of writing in which the protagonist’ use of specific lexical syntactic features suggests characteristics way of thinking which is revealed when their minds and mental process are represented in the text” Fludernik (2009, P.85). This represents that although how the character speaks is important, it is also the implication of their mental thoughts and processes that are as important for the reader to distinguish the character’s view, belief and behaviour.
The idea of adjusting and implementing mind style into an analysis tool was initially experimented by Short and Leech (2007). Their most recognised use of mind style is their study of the character Benjy from The Sound and the Fury (1929) by William Faulkner.
They specifically analysed extracts of Benjy because he is a character who has mental health issues. Because of this, it makes his speech and thought processes staggered and difficult to understand at times. Their analysis is a great way for me to incorporate into my own examination of Nick and Amy’s mind style.
The aim of this essay is to present the significance of mind style, and why it should be acknowledged as an important writing technique and analysis tool.
To demonstrate this, I will analyse the mind style of Nick and Amy Dunne from Gone Girl, and review how the author, Gillian Flynn, uses mind style to drive the plot and create a cunning twist in the book. I do have to warn you, there will be spoilers.
For my analysis of both Nick and Amy, I will follow a process for my examination. I will concentrate on the moment we are introduced to them, and proceed to monitor their journey, specifically concentrating on their behavioural changes in correlation to the story progression. The character’s first utterances and thoughts are very important because this is when the reader is aware and open to interpretation – we as a reader want to familiarise ourselves with the characters we will follow through the book.
Gillian Flynn’s novel, Gone Girl, was written in 2012 and later adapted into a feature film in 2014.
Set in Missouri, USA, the story begins on Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Nick is out when he receives a call from his neighbour, who has observed that the front door to his house is open, and that his cat is outside. Nick returns home to find Amy has gone. The house is a mess, the furniture is overturned and there is blood on the kitchen floor. The novel unravels as it leads the reader to follow the clues and hints to reveal who’s to blame for Amy’s disappearance; shadowed by many plot twists along the way.
Nick quickly transforms from the loving husband to the main suspect of the case. As the reader follows Nick in the search for Amy, they are also shown the diary entries that were written by Amy before her disappearance…
You can read the remainder of my mind style comparative analysis of Nick and Amy Dunne by clicking the title of my essay below.