“I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ. Slit me at my belly and it might slide out, meaty and dark, drop on the floor so you could stomp on it. It’s the Day blood. Something’s wrong with it.”
-Libby Day, page 1 – opening lines of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.
We love and we hate them. We fear and we look up to them. They are out in the open and they are wallflowers. They stay with us like no other – expect there is a fundamental difference between them and us: they are fictional characters, exceed awesomeness and only exist in the pages of our favorite books or across the screen in our favorite tv shows or films. For this new monthly post, we’re talking about beloved characters, both heroes and villains, supporting and minor characters. No rock will be left unturned as we celebrate those birthless creatures created by writers!
Libby Day from Dark Places (published 2009), the narrator and protagonist
Age: 32 and 7 (from her flashbacks)
Job: None – she lives off other people’s charity.
A few words to sum her up: bitter, cynical, uses dark humor, likes other people’s things
Libby Day is from Kinnakee, a small farming town that claims to be the heart of Kansas. She is the sole survivor of a vicious attack that left her family dead, aside from the accused killer, her older brother Ben. From poor but not humble beginnings, life takes a turn for the worse for the family when the farm is about to be taken as debt mounts and rumors that Ben is a satanist molester begins making the rounds in the gossip grapevine. Then the killings happen. Years fade and traumatized (and angry) Libby finds herself over 30 and running out of the money from strangers that have supported her finances thus far. With limited options (and no job prospects), Libby receives a letter from Lyle – a member of a detective organization known as the Kill Club. Hesitant but flat on cash, she takes the gig and the story begins from there as they try to convince her that Ben is innocent and the testimony she gave as a child was a lie concocted by police. From there the story twists and turns, going back to those fateful days leading up to the deaths and all of the people involved in the present creating a chilling tale in Dark Places.
POSITION IN THE STORY
Libby is the protagonist, or rather the main character because she’s kind of a piece of shit. She actually says this about herself in ways as she wasted over the years since the death of her family at the hands of her brother, allegedly. Even the talk of other missing or fallen victims, Libby is stuck on her own tragedy and even disgusted by the competition. The story is broken up in the present and past and through the past, she’s no longer narrating but the pieces are just as vital to the story and character development. In the present, she does all of the work – finding people, interviewing, mulling over the fact she may or may not have made a mistake in pointing her brother as the killer. Before the Kill Club, it was never a question – her brother did it in her mind. As a reader, it’s intriguing to be present in her internal struggle.
As talented as Charlize Theron is, the script didn’t match Libby’s true form which is really no fault of Theron. Mixed with the random flashbacks, most of which don’t include the character and missing details (Libby was missing a finger, her brothers hair was red, her hair was red as a child, not much mention of her living with her aunt, seeing her brother seemed much colder in the film than the book – seems small but authenticity matters), the story was kind of boring and set out Libby as a bitch – not the horrible yet sarcastic lost soul but just an unlikable bitch who for some reason wore a hat the entire time.
WHY SHE NEEDS TO BE CELEBRATED
Libby’s dark sarcasm makes the novel interesting and the unique way she categorizes thoughts – some that are considered dark places – makes her stand out as a not so average protagonist. She’s also a kleptomaniac and yet, she has this charm about her and her inner workings. Dark Places marks the second book I’ve read of Flynn’s and honestly, I didn’t think it would be as good as Gone Girl but somehow it stands up just fine by itself. This is because of Libby – being stuck in her bizarre mind as the book goes from past to present until the shocking resolution.
AS A WRITER, WHAT YOU CAN TAKE AWAY
A happy go lucky good hearted character is a boring one. Don’t be afraid to make them severely flawed, running the line of oddly charming and totally screwed up. Some of my favorite moments sum up how well Flynn preserved Libby’s bitterness and self-hatred, yet likability:
- “Where you get all this money from, Lyle?”
- He beefed up a bit at that, sat up straighter in his chair. “I’m treasurer of the Kill Club; I have a certain amount of discretionary funds. This is the project I choose to use them for.” Lyles tiny ears turned red, like angry embryos. “You’re embezzling.” I suddenly liked him more. – pg 77
- I am a liar and a thief. Don’t let me into our house, and if you do, don’t leave me alone. I take things. –pg 50
- I didn’t want to like Lyle Wirth, as I’d already decided he was a prick. But I appreciate a straightforward apology the way a tone deaf person enjoys a fine piece of music. I can’t do it, but I can applaud it in others. –pg 72