Bound Volume Number


Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2015

Capstone Advisor

Prof. Chris Forster

Honors Reader

Prof. Dana Olwan

Capstone Major


Capstone College

Arts and Science

Audio/Visual Component



contemporary novel, narrative convention, true-crime, domestic violence, representations of women, gender

Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

American Literature | Literature in English, North America | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


Stories about abducted women and murdered wives are sadly common on cable and network news programs, from Nancy Grace to Dateline. These at the center of Emma Donaghue’s Room (2010) and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (2012). These contemporary novels manipulate the narrative conventions of popular true-crime stories to expose the

In the each chapter, I examine the interesting narrative perspectives of Room and Gone Girl to understand the ways that these novels deconstruct mass media narratives of violence to reveal ideas about gender. In Room, Donaghue dislocates the narration by narrating the novel not from the perspective of the abducted captive, but her five-year-old son, Jack. Unaware that he and his mother are captives of her abductor, Jack’s narration is often confusing, forcing readers to experience the captivity narrative anew. Where Donaghue imposes an ignorance of narrative conventions through Jack, Flynn narrates Nick and Amy Dunne, the couple at the heart of Gone Girl, as masters. In keeping with the narrative expectations that when a wife goes missing, you assume her husband did it, all eyes turn to Nick after Amy’s disappearance. But in Flynn’s novel, both characters are hyper-aware of this fact. The stark contrast between ignorance of conventions and mastery of them in Room and Gone Girl reveals the constructedness of the true-crime narratives.

I close by turning to this year’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt in a brief coda. In this sitcom, about a woman who readjusts to life after fifteen years of captivity in a bunker, comedy becomes a device to emphasize resilience after violence.

Finally, this project seeks to contextualize Room, Gone Girl, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt within the current mass media climate so as to reveal the ways that such fictional narratives contested the conventions of true-crime accounts of violence against women.

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Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License
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