This post includes a character analysis of Susan Morrow, the protagonist of “Nocturnal Animals” (2016). Beware of spoilers.
Directed by Tom Ford, the 2016 psychological thriller stars Amy Adams as Susan Morrow. The 2016 film is based on a novel named “Tony and Susan” written by Austin Wright. Today’s analysis is solely based on the film, not the novel.
In “Nocturnal Animals”, Susan Morrow is a wealthy art gallery owner in Los Angeles. She is currently unhappy with her marriage to Hutton Morrow, a cheating and struggling businessman. One day, Susan receives a manuscript of a novel titled “Nocturnal Animals”. It’s from her ex-husband, Edward Sheffield, whom she left 19 years ago. Edward dedicates the novel to Susan and asks for her opinion.
The novel is a violent and disturbing story of a family that is randomly attacked by three men. Tony Hastings, the protagonist, is on a road trip in Texas. He is travelling with his wife (Laura) and his daughter (India). Out of nowhere, three strangers (Ray, Lou and Turk) approach them. They kidnap Laura and India, rape and murder them, and leave Tony for dead.
As Susan reads the novel, she is haunted by memories of her past with Edward. Before Susan left her former husband for Hutton, she had an abortion without his knowledge. However, Edward eventually finds out about Susan’s “betrayal”.
After finishing the novel, Susan realizes that the story is a symbolic revenge tale, reflecting Edward’s pain and anger towards her. In order to make peace with her past, Susan reaches out to Edward and agrees to meet him for dinner. However, he never shows up, leaving her alone and humiliated.
Note: For those who are interested, here is another article discussing the meaning behind the ending of “Nocturnal Animals”.
Susan Morrow Character Analysis in “Nocturnal Animals”
The film “Nocturnal Animals” presents Susan Morrow as an affluent art gallery owner. She is a beautiful woman, often dressed in stylish attire. Actually, her demeanour presents a stark contrast to the art she curates.
In terms of personality, Susan Morrow is a very complex character. Despite achieving great wealth and success, Susan’s past brings her immense feelings of guilt and regret. This inner turmoil often makes Susan question her existence, which brings out her melancholic side.
Susan Morrow and Edward Sheffield (Relationship Analysis)
Edward and Susan met in college. At the time, Edward was an aspiring writer and Susan really liked his creative side. However, during most of their marriage, Edward wasn’t doing well financially. He wasn’t succeeding as a writer. Over time, Susan grew tired of Edward’s struggling career. As a result, she started an affair with Hutton, a more affluent man.
Determined to leave Edward for good, Susan decided to abort his baby. After Edward found out about this, he decided to stop pursuing Susan. After the divorce, Susan married Hutton. Years later, she finds herself in a convenient but unhappy marriage with Hutton. To make matters worse for Susan, her husband is currently cheating on her with another woman.
Generally speaking, Susan’s relationship with Edward significantly shaped her personality. Although she was the one who initiated the breakup and subsequent divorce, Susan still feels a lot of guilt. At the time, her behaviour and morals were certainly questionable. While still legally married to Edward, Susan had an affair and aborted his baby.
There is indeed a feeling of regret for past actions. This is why the thought of Edward still haunts Susan in the present. In the back of her mind, she also questions herself about whether leaving Edward was the right choice, given that her current husband is cheating on her.
Who is Susan Morrow in “Nocturnal Animals”?
Susan Morrow is represented in Edward’s novel as Laura Hastings, the wife of Tony Hastings, the protagonist. In the novel, Laura is a loving and supportive wife and mother. Unfortunately, she has a rather tragic fate in the novel. Her character is brutally raped and murdered by three men on a road trip in Texas. The brutality of his wife’s death shatters Tony’s life and leaves him with no justice or closure.
The story of “Nocturnal Animals” is essentially a symbolic revenge tale. Edward created Laura, who represents an idealized version of his ex-wife, whom he loved but lost. Susan’s former husband is using the novel as a medium to express his pain and anger towards her. In his mind, she betrayed him by having an abortion without his knowledge. Not only that, he deeply resents her for leaving him for a successful and affluent man at the time.
In general, Susan Morrow’s character in the film “Nocturnal Animals” represents regret and dissatisfaction. Despite her affluent lifestyle, she is deeply dissatisfied, symbolizing the emptiness that can accompany material success.
Susan Morrow also represents the consequences of betrayal and the lingering guilt of past mistakes. The manuscript Susan receives from her ex-husband, Edward, serves as a mirror, reflecting her actions and their impact on Edward. This forces her to confront her past decisions, further emphasizing her character’s symbolism of regret and guilt.
Is Susan the villain in “Nocturnal Animals”?
Susan Morrow is not the “bad guy” in “Nocturnal Animals”. She is a complex and conflicted character who made some mistakes in the past but also suffered from the consequences. During their days as a couple, Susan truly loved Edward Sheffield. However, his lack of success and ambition made her feel insecure and unhappy.
The decision to leave Edward seemed right at the time. Having an abortion without his consent and knowledge was indeed cruel and somewhat selfish. Nonetheless, it was also a desperate and painful act that Susan had to endure to move on from Edward.
Her current husband wasn’t able to provide much happiness to Susan either, he is a cheater and a failing businessman. All these circumstances made Susan reminisce about her past with Edward, only to be met with deception and disappointment. In the end, Edward never shows up, leaving Susan waiting for him at the restaurant.
Having said that, although Edward’s feelings are legitimate, Susan also had the right to choose. At the time, Edward wasn’t the man he aspired to be. As a result, she left for someone “better”. So it seems that Susan is more of a victim of circumstance than a bad person. She is a flawed human being, but that alone doesn’t make her the villain of “Nocturnal Animals”.
In conclusion, Susan Morrow is a character who undergoes a long journey of self-discovery and reflection in Nocturnal Animals. While reading Edward’s manuscript, Susan is confronted with her past and present.
After reading the story, Susan realizes that Edward felt wronged during and after the divorce. The woman has felt a lot of regret and guilt for leaving her ex-husband the way she did. As an effort to make amends with the past, Susan tries to reconnect with Edward. However, she meets an unpleasant surprise: he wants nothing to do with her.
Susan’s fate in “Nocturnal Animals” highlights the irreversibility of the past and the fact that actions have consequences. She rejected and left Edward in the past, which left a huge emotional scar on him. In return, Edward did the same to her.