Gone Girl is a haunting, frightful, and literarily significant thriller novel. I’ve never been the biggest fan of fiction fixated on a captivating plot—I’m more of a theme- and language-enthusiast—but for most of my experience reading this particular meticulously-plotted story, I was impressed by the messages it was sending to readers, and the crafty method of unraveling the truth.
The plot of this story is fairly simple—Amy, the wife, disappears on their fifth anniversary and leaves a trail of evidence framing her husband for what looks like a murder. The storyline can be condensed into this single sentence, but throughout the three parts of the book, there are numerous twists that, for one, surprise the reader and grab more attention. But what I like the most is how the distinct difference between the narrators in the three main parts is constantly revealing just how unreliable this couple is. Unreliable narrators, to my knowledge, mostly appear in more conventional novels, certainly not in thrillers that are focused on plots. However, this unorthodox feature is what has made this book so unbelievably haunting. Suppose it had been narrated by two completely rational and reliable character—there would be much less suspense and mysteriousness.
An idea proposed early on by Amy is frequently under discussion for its feministic appeal—the “Cool Girl” character. When initiating romantic relationships, most women are prone to display their most likable traits, or even pretend to be what most men prefer—easygoing, not clingy, trusting… But when the real person behind this façade reveals herself, the husband will not be ecstatic. The problem is this—are we forcing ourselves into the “Cool Girl” mold? According to Amy, she pretended to be the Amazing Amy everyone else thought she was, and at one point, she decided to set her true character free. The violent and manipulative part of her had always existed, but she let it reign completely this time. In this horrid behavior, there is an interesting recognition of her dark side, which many women let slip but men tend to underscore. At the end of the day, this is sexual stereotypes at work—we unconsciously strive to fit the standards of our gender that were stipulated by the opposite gender.
Another major theme is the impact mass media and the uninformed public has on very personal and unclear incidents like this “disappearance” of Amy Dunne. Before any evidence was even collected, neighbors and even the police assumed Nick Dunne was the suspect. As facts were uncovered and physical evidence exposed, the public opinion leaned dangerously towards Nick’s guiltiness. In this era, with social media giving every single person a chance to voice their opinions—whether supported with truth or not—the outcome of a trial is determined before the jury even casts their votes. In fact, there is a shocking difficulty in finding people who are truly “unbiased”—a point very well portrayed in Nick’s case.
Finally, I was actually deeply disturbed by the eventual outcome of this story. I thought it quite revolting. But on second thought, two insane people are probably best together.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.