Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn depicts a terrifying and dark story that keeps the audience in suspense from the beginning until the last pages of the book. It is a story about the nature of identity and fictional mind, the story that confuses the reader to such a point that it becomes difficult to distinguish truth from fiction as well as the offender from the victim. The novel itself can be regarded as either a mysterious portrait of marriage or a confession of a female villain who is aimed at accusing a man using all possible means. At the same time, theme of betrayal and revenge is also present in the book. The main character of the novel, Amy Dunne, is a nightmarish character – she stages her own disappearance and makes her husband an offender. Amy is a specific and vivid woman, possessing total control over the situation. In addition to this, she switches herself so masterfully that it becomes difficult to recognize her real identity. Therefore, it is of first priority to clarify how gender affects characters’ representation of mind, particularly how Amy Dunne, being a woman, starts a psychological battle that exposes human failings and unbelievable depth of betrayal.
It is important to pay attention to motivations of the main characters and their views of each other because they can be regarded as a source of Amy’s emotional violence. It should be noted that events of the story are set in the world that seems real and yet it is not. In it, Nick and Amy are represented as two opposed individuals continuously changing their types. Thus, one day Amy is a ‘cool girl’, but another day, she behaves as an average married woman, and then, she suddenly becomes a victim. Discarding her real identity, Amy changes faces so quickly and frequently that the reader can never be definitely sure what person is in front of him. It seems that it is so difficult for Amy to have an authentic self, and thus, she creates new ones in order to implement all her desires. According to Gillian Flynn, “It’s a very difficult era in which to be a person, just a real, actual person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters” (73). In this regard, the female character is artifice – the true villain has been hidden under the mask of loving wife.
Being rich, beautiful, and clever, Amy will not lose control over the situation. At the beginning, the story is revealed through Amy’s eyes, specifically through the pages of her diary. Thus, the woman seems to be the victim – her traitorous husband is caught in the affair with his young student. Moreover, Amy became increasingly frightened and even bought a gun before their anniversary for self-protection. In this regard, the reader sympathizes with the pure woman and puts the blame on her unfaithful husband. Nevertheless, it is only the play of mind as Amy’s fictional mind, the one that may model the real mind, differs from the reality. Although the woman reveals to the reader her inner thoughts and emotions, they are fiction because gradually, it becomes obvious who the real villain is and why Amy has faked her disappearance. At the same time, Nick also lies to the reader throughout the book. The man had a mistress and this fact could partially justify Amy’s behavior. Gillian Flynn writes about Nick, “I have a mistress. Now is the part where I tell you I have a mistress and you stop liking me. If you liked me to begin with” (19). In this respect, it is difficult to believe Nick, because if he has lied about having a mistress, he might lie about murdering his wife as well. At the same time, both Amy and Nick are unreliable narrators, and when they talk to the reader directly, they drag him or her in their drama. The two unreliable narrators make the reader engaged in their fight and feel that they struggle for the reader’s choice, desperately trying to force the reader to take one’s side. Thus, female’s fictional mind as well as unreliable narrators confuse the reader and mislead him or her in making conclusions.
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Furthermore, gender has a great influence on the representation of Amy in the book. She is a female, and while women are stereotypically viewed weaker than men, she breaks this injustice.
Amy wrote in her diary:
One day I will wear him down, I will catch him off guard, and he will love the energy for the nightly battle, and he will get into bed with me. In the middle of the night, I’ll turn to face him and press myself against him. I’ll hold myself to him like a climbing, coiling vine until I have invaded every part of him and made him mine. (Flynn 58)
At the end of the book, Amy achieves her goal to overcome her husband and conquer him. Moreover, the second half of the novel replaces unfaithful Nick with miserable Amy and demonstrates her real self. Being angry at her husband’s inability to play the role of the man she deeply desires him to be, Amy punishes him for such a failure. The woman stages her own murder and leaves the keys to police that will definitely lead it to suspect Nick of the crime. In this respect, Amy appears as an insulted woman who simply breaks stereotype about a weak and helpless woman. Although the character is a ‘cool girl’, she is not that kind of woman who will silently obey man’s will and will not pay attention to his betrayals. Thus, Amy can be anyone she wants to be in order to punish her cheating husband.
In addition, Amy has a kind of power the average woman can only imagine. Her power is in her fantasies that control the course of events in the novel. Moreover, Amy’s gender has a crucial role in the representation of her mind. The woman only can possess such invention and lusciousness in revenge preparation. Thereby, Amy’s fantasy allowed her to organize everything in such way that it would discredit her husband as well as harm and destroy his reputation. Amy’s representation of mind reveals through the diary that which she has masterfully written in order to present her husband as a brutal offender. As Flynn describes, “Nick loved a girl who doesn’t exist. I was pretending, the way I often did, pretending to have a personality” (30). In this respect, Amy does not understand the danger of her multiple personalities, specifically their effect on other people. At the same time, the diary leads the reader towards the suspicious situation, providing an account of Amy’s growing anticipation of danger. In this regard, the reader thinks that he or she becomes acquainted with woman’s real feeling, thoughts, and fears. Indeed, Amy’s fictional mind models the reader’s mind and convinces the reader that she is a victim who deserves compassion. Nevertheless, the truth eventually becomes obvious and Amy’s real identity emerges. She appears as a sociopath who blames the husband for all possible and impossible sins.
Gone Girl is a powerful novel that represents a female character from the previously unknown side. Initially, it seems that the novel is about family problems and difficulties of a marriage that both spouses must overcome together. However, gradually it becomes obvious that Amy and Nick’s story is not so clear and simple. First, the reader sympathizes with betrayed wife whose beauty, love, and virtue are not valued by Nick. At the same time, the audience can applaud the woman because she has brilliantly avenged her unfaithful husband. Furthermore, the reader sees the whole story mainly through Amy’s eyes, and thus, this misleads him or her. Although Amy is an unreliable character, she masterfully cheats the readers and makes them sympathize with her. Specifically, fictional mind confuses the reader, and he reads the character’s mind not in the proper way. Such literary technique helps Gillian Flynn to warm up the reader’s interest to the character and make the audience ponder on the reason for such behavior. The novel captures attention of the readers gradually, and eventually, leaves them with their thoughts and incomprehension how tender woman can be capable of such actions.