Narratives of Infidelity and Revenge: Euripides’ Medea vs. Gone Girl

Narratives of Infidelity and Revenge: Euripides’ Medea vs. Gone Girl

Narratives of Infidelity and Revenge: Euripides’ Medea vs. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Disclaimer: I have not seen the 2014 movie Gone Girl just yet – this review is based on the book alone. Warning for sensitive readers – the novel contains graphic sexual imagery and quite a bit of profanity. In this review, I am analyzing the story and not critiquing the content; however, quotes used in this review were carefully chosen to avoid these aspects while still giving weight to the argument.

One of my New Years’ resolutions that I’m striving to uphold is to get back into reading more. I used to read book after book but last semester I found it hard to keep up the habit.

So last week I went to the library and picked up some books to read, and incidentally ended up choosing the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The book had been recommended to me by a friend so I decided to give it a shot.

Coincidentally (or incidentally, I’m not sure which is more appropriate), my theater class this semester kicked off by reading the play Medea by the Greek playwright Euripides.

We all volunteered to read for characters, and I volunteered to read for the role of Medea. I was about halfway through Gone Girl at this point.

When I got back to my dorm that night and picked up the book again before going to bed, it suddenly hit me that these two narratives, written over two thousand years apart from each other, deal with the same basic concept – what would a woman do if she found out her husband was cheating on her? To what lengths would she go?

Now, if it was me (and hopefully I would never end up in this situation), I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t go as far as trying to kill my husband/children/husband’s girlfriend/whoever else gets in the way as the characters, Medea and Amy Dunne, do, but it still begs the question: If I was placed in a situation like that, how would I react?

I’ve known the story of Jason and Medea at least since I became fascinated with Greek mythology around the age of 11 or 12, and it’s interesting reading for Medea, knowing the monster of a character she is, and ending up sympathizing with her position a little.

As a reader, I can’t sympathize with either main character – Jason or Medea – because both characters have committed grevious wrongs and have not repented of them. They still believe what they did was right and their ego or their anger gets in the way of truly realizing the horror of what they have done.

And the same goes for Nick and Amy in Gone Girl.

Without giving away the plot of the book entirely, I was rooting for Amy for most of the first half of the book, especially when I found out Nick had been cheating on her. But then Amy’s true character starts to be revealed and I start to side with Nick a little. By the end of the book, however, I’m shaking my head at both of them. I can’t pick a side here. Both characters are in the wrong.

The interesting thing here is, though I can’t condone the characters’ actions, their motives and emotions are easy to understand. Medea is upset at how women are treated in her time, like possessions and trophies instead of people:

“Of all Earth’s creatures that live and breathe,

Are we women not the wretchedest?

We scratch and save, a dowry to buy a man –

And then he lords it over us: we’re his,

Our lives depend on how his lordship feels.

For better for worse: we can’t divorce him.

However he turns out, he’s ours and ours he stays.

– Medea, Euripides

And Amy Dunne has a similar rant in Gone Girl – a different era, a slightly different situation, but the same idea:

“You don’t ever want to be the wife who keeps her husband from playing poker – you don’t want to be the shrew with the hair curlers and the rolling pin. So you swallow your disappointment and say okay.”

Gone Girl, Pg. 157

Now, I’m not saying that I agree with these generalized definitions of men in these passages, but I do agree that both women are in the sort of situation where their husband is that type of man to them. And it’s easy to be bitter. It’s easy to want to get out, to plot revenge against them. And the women in these stories go incredibly far.

One thing my theater professor kept polling the class about was whose side were they on: Jason’s or Medea’s? Are you Team Jason or Team Medea? And I didn’t raise my hand for either one. Because the other side of this issue, the flip side, is just as bad because the characters’ reaction goes WAY too far, to the point of murder.

Yes, Jason and Nick cheated on their wives. In Medea, Jason doesn’t even repent of it. He makes excuses instead, about needing more sons and wanting status to protect her and the children. It makes me sick just reading it. He doesn’t care about her at all, it’s obvious.

In Gone Girl, Nick realizes that he did wrong and sincerely repents of it, but then grows bitter at what his wife is doing to him and the pendulum swings the wrong way. Now he wants to reveal her as the murdering deceiver she is, send her to jail and make her pay for exposing him and plotting against him. But he’s now also afraid of her, of what she might do to him.

Medea and Amy have a right to be angry, to be upset, to feel like they need to do something about it. The problem is, they deal with that anger in the wrong way and lash out. They use their intellect and cleverness not in trying to make it right, but in getting revenge.

Medea, describing her plot to kill the princess Glauce, Jason’s lover, and Glauce’s father, Creon, and eventually her and Jason’s own two children, to deprive Jason of everything he’s ever loved:

“Evil, evil on every side,
But watch and see.
Unhappy times await that happy pair,
And all who fawn on them.
D’you think I’d have crawled to him,
Pleaded with him, touched him,
If I’d not had secret plans?
The fool could have banished me today
And aborted my revenge. Instead,
I have one whole long day. One day
To make all three cold meat:
Father, daughter – and that man I hate.”

Medea, euripides

And Amy, fed up with her husband’s attitude and behavior:

“It’s rather extreme, framing your husband for your murder. I want you to know that I know that. All the tut-tutters out there will say: She should have just left, bundled up what remained of her dignity. Take the high road! Two wrongs don’t make a right! All those things that spineless women say, confusing their weakness with morality….”
But it’s so very necessary. Nick must be taught a lesson. He’s never been taught a lesson! He glides through life with that charming-Nicky grin, his beloved-child entitlement, his fibs and shirkings, his shortcomings and selfishness, and no one calls him on anything. I think this experience will make him a better person. Or at least a sorrier one.”

Gone Girl, pg. 234-35

Suffice it to say, neither of the stories end well for any of the characters. Not a single character is unaffected. The moral we can take from these stories is to stay far away from the cancer that is vengeance. The Bible is very clear on this:

“Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written: Vengeance is mine,
I will repay, says the Lord.

Romans 12:19

So what are we to do instead? You know what the answer is, turn the other cheek. The problem is that’s it’s been used so often it’s become cliche, and that’s a shame because it is just as relevant today as it was when it was written, as evidenced by these two stories.

All the evidence tells us that revenge is a bad idea. It never fixes anything. You can punch a bully in the nose and rejoice over the temporary feeling it gives you, but in the end it never helps. We risk exacerbating the problem, or worse, becoming a bully ourselves.

In fact, I just watched a Supernatural episode (After School Special, Series 4) that involves that very thing: Sam, in high school, defended a friend against a bully by fighting back and winning; but the bully ended up becoming the bullied one and killed himself.

It’s a vicious cycle – one that can never be escaped unless someone has the guts to realize what’s going on and take a step back. And lest you think that turning the other cheek involves becoming a doormat to keep the peace, Scripture has a slightly more proactive approach. Here’s the next two verses:

If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In so doing, you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.

Do not be conquered by evil; but overcome evil with good.

Romans 12:20-21

Basically, the only way to reverse the cycle is to turn it around. Not only turning the other cheek, but also to do good to those who hurt you. It might not be easy, it might not be pleasant, you might not even see lasting benefits, but if you’re not perpetuating the cycle, the buck stops with you.

Ever heard the phrase, “Be the change you want to see in the world”? This is your chance. Don’t be like Medea. Don’t be like Amy. Revenge isn’t best served hot or cold. Healing begins when you decide to take God’s advice and leave the vengeance up to Him.

Leave a comment below to tell me what your opinion is on these two narratives – have you read them before? Did you side with one character or the other? What would have been your reaction? Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to have revenge on someone? What did you do?

My 2019 List of Upcoming Media

My 2019 List of Upcoming Media

My 2019 List of Upcoming Media

Hey everyone! Since its the beginning of the year I thought I’d update everyone on the books, TV shows, and movies coming out this year that are on my radar. I’ll see how many of these I can catch (and possibly write about) through the year and I’ll come back to this post in December and see how much I accomplished.

Some of these I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while, others I just discovered in my search for new things coming out this year. Either way, here’s my list and I hope you find something that interests you!

If you have something I should add to my list, let me know in the comments!

It would be a very long post if I introduced each item on here, so I decided to just list their names and release dates for now. Links lead to the trailers for the movies and shows. If there’s no link, that means the trailer isn’t out yet.

Movies:

  • Spiderman: Far from Home (July 5)
  • Cats (December 20 – based on the musical)
  • Inversion (release date TBD)
  • Boss Level (release date TBD)

TV Shows:

  • Good Omens (first half of the year, release date TBD)
  • The War of the Worlds (later in the year, release date TBD)

Doctor Who series 12 doesn’t look like it will be coming out until 2020.

Books:

  • The Fork, the Witch, and the Worm by Christopher Paolini (sequel to the Inheritance Cycle)
  • Wanderers by Chuck Wendig
  • Mind Games by Shana Silver
  • Dragon Ghosts by Lisa McMann (Book 3 of the Unwanteds Quests)
  • We Walked the Sky by Lisa Feidler
  • The Strangers by Margaret Peterson Haddix (first book the the Greystone Secrets series)
  • The Other Lady Vanishes by Amanda Quick
  • Time Jumpers by Brandon Mull (Book 5 of the Five Kingdoms series)
  • Invisible by Andrew Grant

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I feel like my TV shows list is kinda small, though of course I’m not counting the shows that are not coming out this year or that are releasing new seasons but I haven’t seen the previous seasons yet.

If you have anything else you think I should be interested in, mention it in the comments and I shall be eternally grateful (I feel since I mentioned Toy Story I had to say that).

Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’: Why Do Adults Find it So Creepy?

Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’: Why Do Adults Find it So Creepy?

Neil Gaiman’s ‘Coraline’: Why Do Adults Find it So Creepy?

I first read Neil Gaiman’s book ‘Coraline’ a couple of years ago, when I was sixteen. I don’t remember what made me pick it up, or what was going on in my life at the time I read it, but I do remember that I found it unnervingly creepy. A couple months ago, I started reading Gaiman’s “Good Omens”, in preparation for the upcoming TV show next year.

I couldn’t remember where I had heard the author’s name before, so I looked up Gaiman’s other books and noticed ‘Coraline’ on the list. I had forgotten most of the plot and events of the book itself – I just had emotional memories: this creepy-crawly feeling down my spine whenever I thought of the story. Nevertheless, I remembered that it had been a good book, so I decided to read it again.

(Full admission now: I have not watched the movie. I will be discussing the book only – though from reviews of the movie I gather that it stayed largely the same.)

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The story is about a young girl named Coraline, living an ordinary life with parents who love her, but are often busy, making her feel as if she is being ignored. One day, she discovers a bricked-up wall behind a door that sparks her curiosity, and she returns later that night to find that the brick wall has disappeared.

On the other side of the door she discovers a nearly-identical world to her own, with another flat, an “other mother”, and an “other father” with black buttons for eyes. Cats and mice talk, the toys in her other bedroom are alive, and these alternate parents seem to give her the attention she desires.

However, Coraline soon finds out that her other mother’s goal is to make her stay on the other side of the door forever, and sew black buttons into her eyes. The other mother kidnaps Coraline’s actual parents to convince her to stay. Coraline must escape the other mother, save her parents, and rescue the souls of the other children who had been the other mother’s previous victims.

For the first third of the story or so, everything seems normal.

Nothing weird is going on, no sense of danger or alarm, until Coraline starts to interact with the other mother. Then the intensity of the story starts to build to approximately the same level of scariness as a typical Doctor Who episode. Still doing fine. Then, without warning, it plummets into the world of dark thriller, possibly horror, in the space of a few pages and it is suddenly clear how dark this book has been all along. You’re left on edge and thoroughly rattled for the rest of the story and I know when I turned the last page the first time I read it, my reaction was something like, “What the heck did I just read?”

The weirdest thing about this story, however, is how, almost universally, children and adults view the story differently. Children see the story as a fun adventure, a little suspenseful at times but everything works out in the end. Adults, however, or at least those above a certain age or maturity level, will view the book as the most unnerving children’s story they’ve ever read. I am no exception.

But what creates this difference? What is hiding in the pages of this book that adults can see but children can’t? It seems a little counterintuitive – usually children spot hidden things long before adults do.

Gaiman himself has commented on the difference in this article from CBS:

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However, “adults get scared,” he said. “Adults get disturbed, and I think one reason for that is because it’s a story about a child in danger and I think we’re hardwired to worry about children in danger.”

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That may be part of it, but I think there’s more.

‘Coraline’ incorporates many details that remind readers of other fantasy stories; for example, the doorway through which Coraline crosses over into the other flat reminded me instantly of C.S. Lewis’ “The Magicians Nephew”. Going further into that analogy, the passageway between the houses in that story ultimately led to another world via Uncle Andrew’s study. In ‘Coraline’, the door leads to a fantastical alternate reality – the same level of anticipated danger resides in each.

The addition of these same elements, I believe, are why adults see the horror much clearer. We have read more books (hopefully). We have heard more stories, we know when plot elements mean more than they say. I think one of the things that terrifies me the most in the story is the rats that sing in her dreams: “We were here before you came, we will be here when you fall.”

The element of rats elicits a response by itself – anyone who has read any amount of stories knows that rats are usually depicted as evil, while mice are innocent and harmless. But this combined with the song implies the idea that evil will overtake Coraline, an unstoppable wave that will leave her behind in its wake.

It’s like in M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Visit’ (which I do not recommend but have watched recently and can’t get out of my brain), when the grandmother asks her granddaughter, “Would you mind getting in the oven to clean it?” We know instinctively that this is not only suspicious but downright wrong, and there are literally a dozen versions of the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale telling us why that is a bad idea.

But children who have not known these stories as long or may not connect the references will miss all these warning signs that those of us who are older and more well-read will not. I think you’d find, if you did the research, that the age at which a child first realizes the darkness in Coraline will directly correlate with the number of books that child has read.

Is ‘Coraline’ a creepy book? Undoubtedly. Is ‘Coraline’ a good book? Again, the answer is a resounding yes. ‘Coraline’ lends itself to quite a bit of fun psychological analysis and I think it will stay in my list of favorite books for that reason.

Have you read ‘Coraline’? How old were you when you first read it and what was your reaction? Let me know in the comments! Also, to support my geeky writing habits, I have begun designing and selling t-shirts. Feel free to hop over to the shop and check them out!

Thanks for supporting me by reading this review!


Official Review: Timewise by Robert Leet

Official Review: Timewise by Robert Leet

This is one of my reviews for OnlineBookClub.org. View the review on the website here.

Timewise by Robert Leet is a sci-fi novel that is deeply rooted in quantum physics. The plot and the ideas presented are fascinating, giving the reader something to really ponder as the scientific ideas that drive the story are gradually explained. Unfortunately, such a difficult topic inadvertently builds a barrier between the story and its readers, and the story itself leaves you with more questions than answers.

What if you could see into the future? Not even very much, but enough that could give you prior knowledge of important events, help you predict financial exchanges, or even rig them in your favor? Ron Larsen is a wandering student encouraged to pursue a college degree by daring and radical physics professor Regina Russo. At first he wonders why she takes such an interest in his personal life, but quickly realizes that she needs someone willing to listen to her unconventional and possibly dangerous ideas – ones that could change the realm of quantum physics forever. Over many years and countless conversations, she slowly explains to him the scientific basis behind a dangerous and illegal plan that ends up entangling them both in their own schemes.

Leet creates personable, intelligent characters that constantly challenge ideas, try new things, plan, create, and learn through their mistakes. Descriptions of real events scattered throughout the story, such as the dot com bubble bursting and 9/11, make the story seem cemented in reality, while exploring theoretical heights that are almost unbelievable, yet possibly just within reach of modern science.

Additionally, the scientific side of this book is fascinating. There are many concepts that I, not being familiar with a lot of science, have a hard time understanding, but the author does a fairly good job of explaining it to the reader in simpler terms and allegories, which are helpful. I found myself drawn into the scientific explanations, because they engaged my creativity and imagination by opening my eyes to possibilities that haven’t been explored in any book I’ve read before.

However, there are many sections that are hard to wade through simply because the science feels so deep. I had to take breaks to do something else in between chapters, because it felt like my head might explode trying to wrap my brain around these complex concepts and jargon that I didn’t fully understand. Leet’s biography on Amazon says that he is a structural engineer, which may explain a lot of the math and physics jargon that isn’t quite explained well enough for a layman to understand it.

On the moral side of things, I got tired of the main character’s constant bouncing from relationship to relationship, as if all the female characters (except Regina) were just plot tools instead of legitimately needed characters. To be fair, one character does make up for this towards the end of the book, though.

And finally, the book’s ending was less than satisfactory. I can think of several questions I had from the beginning of the book that were still unanswered at the end. It didn’t feel like the story really had a complete conclusion, though the author did come full circle by utilizing the game of chess as an introduction and conclusion to the book. Altogether, though, I felt unsatisfied with the story as a whole. I do not know if the book is intended to have a sequel, but I’d say it needs one.

I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars. Incomplete and hard to understand, the premise was incredible but the story itself needs refining. However, I enjoyed reading this book, and the quality of both the writing style and ideas represented impressed me. I think that earns back one of the points that the above reasons take away. And if you don’t mind a few unanswered questions and are willing to exercise your mind a little, you probably will enjoy it, too.

Buy the book on Amazon here.

Official Review: The Deserving by Efren O’Brien

Official Review: The Deserving by Efren O’Brien

This is one of my reviews for OnlineBookClub.org. View the review on the website here.

The Deserving by Efren O’Brien is a rich and informative story that reads like a fascinating history book.. This historical fiction is one of the best I’ve ever read in the genre, with its descriptive settings and realistic battles and characters, though it took me a lot longer to read than most books. This book is a highly enjoyable book and a worthwhile read – however, if you are new to reading historical fiction, it’s probably best not to start with this one.

Emile Deschampes grew up in Louisiana in the 1800s, and ran away from home at 15 to escape his abusive father. At 18, he joined the Union army and proved himself as a true soldier, enduring hardships that won him rank and influence. During his time in the army, he met a young woman named Carmen, and after the war, Emile eventually ended up in her home town of San Antonio, Texas, and married her. Years later, when Aubrey McGrath, a former Confederate general who injured Carmen and attempted to kill Emile during the war, shows up in San Antonio with a plot to start a second Civil War, Emile must decide whether to ignore the warning signs or do everything in his power to stop McGrath despite personal risk to himself and Carmen.

It’s abundantly clear that the author did his research. At times, it’s hard to tell where fact ends and fiction begins, and the amount of detail described is mind-boggling. He also has a deep, firm grasp on the English language, using it to great effect during this story. He gives readers up-close looks at the history, culture, facts, and legends surrounding the Civil War and that era of history. I was impressed at the depth of this narrative, though it sometimes felt unnecessary.

I did notice that sometimes the story felt a little bit dry – more ‘history book’ than ‘historical fiction’ at times – but this may be because I haven’t read much historical fiction in a long while. A couple of errors that could be easily fixed by a more thorough proofreader, mostly involving missing commas, would be helpful as well, but this did little to detract from the overall story. Comparatively speaking, it’s much better edited than several books I have read recently.

Really my only major complaint is that it’s hard to follow the story. All the detail and in-depth scenes are well-researched, but the story itself is swallowed up in it, and there are so many characters that it’s hard to keep track of who is important and who is not. It’s like the author got so interested in describing specific events that occur during the story’s timeline, he forgot about the story at hand, before coming back to complete the narrative. I had a hard time figuring out enough of the storyline to sum it up in this review, and I found myself reading several sections multiple times.

This is historical fiction at its best – though unfortunately I have to take a point off for the hard-to-follow storyline. I rate it 3 out of 4 stars for its well-researched, well-rounded scenes and characters, and its realistic and descriptive take on the Civil War. Whether you are a history buff or a simple fiction lover, you will enjoy this story, provided you factor in the time it will take you to read it.

Buy the book on Amazon here.

Official Review: Superhighway 2 by Alex Fayman

Official Review: Superhighway 2 by Alex Fayman

This is one of my reviews for OnlineBookClub.org. View the review on the website here:

For those who read the first book, Superhighway 2 by Alex Fayman may or may not be appealing at first glance, depending on how you liked it. But surprisingly, this is one series where the sequel is better than the original story. Although there are some character defects, the overall effect of this book is intense and enjoyable.

After the events of the first book – which include finding out he can travel anywhere in the world via Internet, stealing money from a rich Russian mobster, falling in love with a woman and then losing her through his own infidelity – Alex Fine decides to start his life over, though not without fresh mistakes. He gets married and thinks he can finally settle down, but when his son is born he realizes that he can never really outrun the mistakes of his past. Forced to place his newborn son in the same orphanage he grew up in, Alex thinks he can atone for his sins by helping the CIA prevent a war with Russia. But the deeper he gets into his mission, the more he realizes that he is just a pawn in a global game because of his unique ability. Who can he trust, and will he ever learn to live with his past?

I have two issues with this story. The first is the matter of female characters. So far, in both books, almost every female character has become an object of sexual desire for the main character, and to be honest, it’s getting tiring. As soon as one female character is out of the picture, another appears to take her place as his romantic cliché. So far, the only strong, stand-alone female character is the elderly orphanage director who raised him. The other issue is how the character is somewhat one-dimensional in the sense that he never learns from his own mistakes. He seems like the poster boy for bad decisions. Drug use, sex, and an addiction to money and splendor seem to define the better part of his character. Though it honestly feels like the character regrets his choices and wants to rectify them, knowing that he is not going to change makes it hard for the reader to empathize with his situation.

However, the descriptive imagery used by the author is, like in the first book, quite striking in allowing the reader to picture exactly what the character is experiencing. It somewhat combats the character’s one-sidedness by helping the reader understand his feelings of grief over the deaths of his loved ones and the love he feels towards his baby son. Additionally, the plot is complex and engaging enough that I was drawn into the story. While the first book felt like a whirlwind of travel and activity that never achieved a complete story, this second book feels much more well-rounded and self-contained. I felt that the book did justice to a full-fledged storyline, while still leaving it open for a third book to complete Alex’s tale.

Overall, this book is much better than the last one, and I give it 3 out of 4 stars. Though the characters have issues, the story itself is a worthwhile read. I enjoyed the description and the complexity of the narrative quite a bit. The sexual content is a downside in my opinion, reserving the book for mature audiences teen and up. But I was satisfied with the book as a whole, and I expect that a large portion of readers will, too.

Buy the book on Amazon here: