Publication Date

Summer 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Amanda Athon, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

William Lanigan, Ph.D.


Gillian Flynn challenges fiction's male-dominated presence by asserting female presence in number, relevance, and agency. Instead of following patriarchal expectations which maintain that female characters must be virtuous, Flynn evokes female villains whose complexities and monstrous actions extend beyond the limits of the Gothic tradition from which she draws. Although Flynn champions female agency within her fiction, her efforts meet harsh criticism from mainstream audience, specifically regarding Gone Girl. I assert the backlash stems from the audiences' failure to see Amy's character apart from their own expectations of what a feminist character must represent. While feminism in general means supporting efforts for women's equality in all aspects of life, and rightly so, feminism must also be understood as an individualized need since women require different forms of feminist support based on their own, unique context; thus, feminism is both a universal and individual necessity. Flynn demonstrates this feminist duality through her unique explorations of female villainy which widen fiction's feminist lens.