Study Guide

Dark Places What's Up With the Epigraph?

By Gillian Flynn

What's Up With the Epigraph?

The Days were a clan that mighta lived long
But Ben Day's head got screwed on wrong
That boy craved dark Satan's power
So he killed his family in one nasty hour

Little Michelle he strangled in the night
Then chopped up Debby: a bloody sight
Mother Patty he saved for last
Blew off her head with a shotgun blast

Baby Libby somehow survived
But to live through that ain't much a life

—Schoolyard Rhyme, Circa 1985

What's up with the epigraph?

The epigraph is a fictional schoolyard rhyme in the vein—the severed, blood-squirted vein—of "Lizzie Borden took an axe." It serves a couple of purposes. One, it sets up the crime we're about to see as a work of legend, a Midwestern murder like the one depicted by Truman Capote in In Cold Blood. It gives us a quick summary of the case before we read about in the text. And finally, it shows us people's perverse tendencies to turn murder into a game. Kill Club, anyone?