Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Narrative Choices: Untrustworthy Narrators

An untrustworthy narrator is a strong foundation for suspense in mysteries and thrillers. The Girl on a Train starring Emily Blunt is an excellent adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ novel with the same title.

In both, Rachel, Megan, and Anna narrate their intersecting stories. Rachel is the least reliable of the three. The man she believes to have been the love of her life leaves her for Anna. Rachel thinks it’s because she descended into alcohol after she couldn’t conceive. The truth is something else, we learn.

Megan, first seen through Rachel’s eyes, seems to live a charmed life in which her husband adores her. The truth is something else. In flashbacks and dialogue, especially with her therapist, we learn Megan is more chimera, an illusion invented from Rachel’s needs.

Anna should be seen as completely untrustworthy immediately. She was John and Rachel’s realtor; she is now the wife of Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband; she has given Tom a daughter, something Rachel longed to do. An adulterer is traditionally and classically suspect as adultery requires a level of dishonesty. Worse, Anna is complicit in malice perpetrated by Tom.

Unraveling the stories to find the truth is the delight in Hawkins’ thriller.

Reading Challenge:

Read Paula Hawkins’ novel and the film adaptation.

Writing Challenge:

Make a list of character traits that prove who is trustworthy and who is not.