What “Into the Water,” Buzzfeed Quizzes, and Musical Taste Have in Common

(No spoilers here.) In Paula Hawkins’ thriller Into the Water, characters aren’t simply “good” or “bad.” While Sean is called a “good man” over and over again he’s done some terrible things, and while Nel is loved by some she’s hated by others (even by the same people at different times). And then there are Lena, Jules, and Louise…


This is part of what makes a thriller work. We can’t figure out “who dun it” because literally everyone has some kind of nasty history that suggests they might be capable of murder (what a terrifying thought)!

And yet, by writing the book through these characters’ perspectives, Hawkins forces us to empathize with them and understand their motivation. This doesn’t make their actions any less screwed up or horrific, but in experiencing the story in this way we are basically forced to view these people as human, and not as demons who hurt and kill people because they’re twisted and like it. Honestly, in a way that would be a lot more comforting–it would make us feel safer from the possibility of committing such horrific deeds ourselves.

And then there are Buzzfeed quizzes.


I’m moderately addicted to Buzzfeed quizzes. Why do I answer questions about my favorite color, season, and article of clothing to find out what sort of cupcake I am???

While we know that our favorite pizza toppings have no magic powers to reveal our deepest fears, Buzzfeed quizzes work because we are multifaceted creatures, which is in a way related (though in a much more lighthearted way) to what Into the Water shows. When a quiz tells me I’m not assertive I think to myself, “totally true!” But when it tells me I’m pretty darn assertive I also think, “totally true!” That’s because in certain situations I can be assertive, while in others I’m definitely not. It depends on the context, my current mood, etc.

earbuds-1808643_1920.jpgThis is one of the reasons why I find myself drawn to an eclectic array of music: Taylor Swift, Dmitri Shostakovich, Europe, Cascada, Sleigh Bells, The Chieftains… Sometimes I’ll be in the mood for hard rock and other times I crave some classical piano nocturnes. Still other times it’s Adele, or even Veggie Tales. Each type of music satisfies a different mood or situation.

So maybe Into the Water and Buzzfeed quizzes are pointing to something similar. If humans can’t be put in clear boxes with labels like “extroverts” and “introverts,” or “good” and “bad” people, the world might feel a little less safe and predictable. But at the same time, at the extrovert-introvert type of level it’s okay for our identity to be more fluid and situation-dependent (obviously not in the hurting people sense, but in the benign, everyday preferences sense).

Because in the end, our identities/preferences are fluid. And that’s okay.

Have you read Into the Water? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below! 

You might also like: If Authors Told You How to Read Their Books…As Inspired by Music

10 thoughts on “What “Into the Water,” Buzzfeed Quizzes, and Musical Taste Have in Common”

  1. There were a lot of thoughts that came to mind as I read this (especially in regard to all the time I’ve put into letting Buzzfeed teach me about myself!) but right now, as I come to the end of your post, there’s only one thing in my head. And that is VEGGIE TALES SONGS. So, thanks to you, I will be spending the day singing about hairbrushes and pirates who don’t do anything and ESPECIALLY how everyone wants a water buffalo (your is fast and mine is slow). In other words, thank you! You’ve made my Sunday much more enjoyable :).

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Such a fascinating and true post! Indeed, our tastes are often so varied and seemingly irreconcilable but in the most unique and telling way. (I really identified with your musical tastes – right now my playlists mix Mozart, Bach, Lorde, Selena Gomez, Hans Zimmer soundtracks, and a lot of other extremely random things 😂…)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I listen to some Selena Gomez and Lorde, too! And you can’t beat the Lion King soundtrack haha. So you listen to all of those types at the same time, in the same playlists? I tend to do that with music with lyrics but not so much instrumental and lyric combined, so that’s really interesting to me. In what kinds of contexts do you use those playlists if you don’t mind me asking?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, they’re on separate playlists 😋 I could try mixing them, that would actually be kind of cool! I tend to listen to classical most often, pop when I’m in the mood for something with lyrics, and soundtracks when I write/do homework/etc!

        Liked by 1 person

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