Study Guide

Dark Places Violence

By Gillian Flynn


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. (1.1)

These gory images are the first two lines of the book, which lets us know that Flynn isn't going to let us look away from any violence. She's going to dive into it, head first.

My mom, two sisters, gone: bang bang, chop chop, choke choke. (1.4)

Libby tries not to think of her family, but she has no problem focusing on the violence of the crime. It's part of her victim complex to act like the violence is no big deal. She thinks she's used to it, but she's not.

Maniacal smears of bright red sound in the night. That inevitable, rhythmic axe, moving as mechanically as if it were chopping wood. Shotgun blasts in a small hallway. The panicked, jaybird cries of my mother, still trying to save her kids with half her head gone. (1.56)

Once again, we see Libby talking about the murder of her own mother as if it were no big deal. Explaining it in detail is her way of coping with it.

My fist couldn't quite connect, so I ended up giving him a hard smack against his chin, the way you'd punish a puppy. (3.68)

Libby lashes out against a guy at the Kill Club, demonstrating her violent side. Also, she isn't being quite so honest about the "punish a puppy" thing. We later learn that Libby killed a dog who bit her foot. Talk about a temper. If she punished this guy like she punished puppies, he'd be dead.

The walls were painted in blood: pentagrams and nasty words. Cunts. Satan. Everything was broken, ripped, destroyed. […] A single Rice Krispie would be found in my mother's chest wound, the mayhem was so haphazard. (3.161)

This crime scene is bananas. It takes a sick mind to commit a crime like this… and a sick mind to write it. No offense, Gillian Flynn.

His head smashed the dirt hard, his teeth sang like a bell. […] He wished he'd hit harder. (4.1-4.2)

Ben, like all the Days, has a violent side. Unlike Libby, though, Ben often wants to turn his rage against himself.

Annihilation. Again he saw axes, guns, bloody bodies smashed into the ground. Screaming giving way to whimpers and birdsong. He wanted to bleed more. (4.17)

Okay, we take back what we said about the last quote. Ben wants to rage against everything. But note that he still ends this violent fantasy with himself bleeding. Ben ultimately wants to punish himself.

[Ben's] whole body felt like a cocked fist, ready for release. (11.97)

This is a nice turn of phrase that lets us know Ben is an angry young man ready to blow. The phrase also serves as misleading foreshadowing, making us think that when Ben snaps, it'll be against his family—but that's not actually what happens.

"[Ben] had something inside him that wasn't right for the outside world. A violence." (31.73)

This is Diondra talking… you know, the woman who strangled a ten-year-old to death. We think she should keep her judgments about Ben to herself.

For the first time, Calvin Diehl thought of himself as a murderer. He fell back in his seat and bellowed. (39.8)

Why does Calvin Diehl, a man who has killed many people, only consider himself a murderer when he thinks about killing Debby? And why does it bother him so much? It's like he's a vegetarian who accidentally ate a cheeseburger.

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