Gone Girl is full of enigmas. Author Gillian Flynn has done something very difficult: she writes about gendered behaviors that seem like they should be stereotypical, but come off as inherently fresh, insightful, and ultimately chilling. She’s able to get into the heads of Nick and Amy so well, you might feel like you’ve gotten whiplash by jumping back and forth between their points of view. If you haven’t already read the Gone Girl novel, then you should get on it right away. Or not. Because one thing’s for sure — this book will leave you feeling extremely unsettled and wondering about the loved ones in your own life.
Warning, there are spoilers ahead. The distant husband who’s checked out of his marriage, pretending like everything is alright while he lives a double life. The neglected housewife who just can’t handle the turbulent dramas of chores, small-town gossip, and social status. Sure, it seems like it would be easy to reduce the characters in Gone Girl down to stereotypical terms. However, they’ve got this extra dimension that remind us that, hey, sometimes we do fall into trope categories in real life. But like Nick and Amy, these tropes are still full of complexity, which prevents us from writing them off, even when they do something that seems so, so predictable.
The characters themselves even try to fit each other into boxes. Flynn’s got a gift of internal dialogue — we get to read as Nick makes his initial impression on Amy. “Nick’s the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn’t puke in your car. Nick!” We get to be a fly on the wall as the characters strive to figure each other out, and we get to watch as they fail to actually know each other.
Amy dreads becoming a certain type of person, a certain type of trope. As she sits in Nick’s small town, she dreads becoming like the other residents that she admittedly looks down on. When it comes to the limited job options around her, she criticizes, “Basically, I was supposed to be a housewife for pay. Irony enough for a million Hang in There posters.”
It’s easy to see why Nick and Amy feel trapped. Like so many of us, they’re afraid of being two dimensional. They’re afraid of being forced to be someone they’re not. And while yes, some of their behaviors inevitably fit in familiar-sounding tropes, they’re able to throw readers a number of curveballs.
Flynn’s book takes the 1950s ideal of what an American family should be, and she flips it completely on its head. She tears it apart with tweezers and causes the reader to reflect on feminism and how it fits into today’s modern family life. After all, Nick and Amy are the ultimate unreliable narrators. Nick seems so genuine and honest, but he quickly loses the trust of his own sister, and arguably the trust of the readers, once his affair is revealed. After you seen the various funhouse reflections of these characters, you’ll definitely start wondering what would happen if your family was thrust into the media spotlight during a high profile trial. What would the police dig up? What would you want to hide and why?
Gone Girl does an excellent job at having us scrutinize the gender roles in the modern family, picking apart the aspects that make our society progressive…or not so progressive. Flynn does an excellent job at getting us into the heads of the quintessential dysfunctional family, one that slides down into ruin because the characters are never quite honest with each other.