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…

A1DixzUOkrL.jpg

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. Continue reading