Hysterical Girl: A Second Look at Gillian Flynn’s 'Gone Girl'

Amy Elliot Dunne, the female protagonist in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, is a modern-day hysteric. Dunne represents the two sides of womanhood: pliant and adaptable housewife and sociopathic and calculating murderess. Her beginning is nothing less than dramatic, she precedes seven dead female fetuses. The seven dead Hope’s resurrected within Amy, who destroyed in her mother’s body in her birth process, paint the picture of the perfectionist daughter who tries to become her counterpart in the Amazing Amy children’s books her parents author.

She is characterized by her control; Amy’s “Cool Girl” mask is always on. Yet, Amy cannot be perfect all the time, therein lies the central conflict of Gone Girl. The mystery and associated with two unreliable narrators is not the true theme. The central consideration remains: how does one maintain an honest marriage when husbands and wives lie to each other every day?

Amy is a woman who seeks to leave the patriarchal and heteronormative world. She starts again with a new name: Nancy. The namesake is a vestige from Oliver Twist, she paints herself as an abused wife, seeking refuge. Amy’s anger is not merely at her cheating husband, her fury is based on legally changing her last name to his. Once she became his possession, Amy lost all independence and ties to her former ancestors. Then, she loses her job as a personality quiz writer and lends the bulk of her inheritance to her parents. Her family literally ran her Amazing Amy shadow into the ground. Amy loses her voice and becomes a silent body. Her plotting of financial and emotional freedom from husband Nick is her final wild card.

Upon discovering her husband’s sexual infidelity, Amy plots for more than a year to frame him for her murder. Nick doesn’t even suspect, he’s too busy with his emotional issues, secret girlfriend and bar, funded from Amy’s inheritance, after their move to Missouri. A telling detail is Amy dresses all in pink on Valentine’s Day to buy a gun from vagrants living in the abandoned mall. Amazing Amy was always detail driven! She grasps for male patriarchal control, in the guise of a phallic gun. First, she chooses death.

Amy lives placidly and cheaply for months, while contemplating suicide. Then, she decides she enjoys life and wants to live on. As a dead person, Amy doesn’t have fiduciary access. She is briefly employed in stealing fish with a fellow seedy neighbor. Her yearning for community becomes her poisoned apple. She is robbed by her friends and, in essence, is a pauper. Penury does not look good on Park Avenue Amy Elliot Dunne. Her last resort becomes her high school ex-boyfriend, Desi Collings.

She agrees to live at Desi’s lake house in exchange for her comfort. Like the fairy story of Bluebeard, Amy is an imprisoned woman. She is controlled by the man she rebuked twenty years previous, surrendering her freedom for economic security. In her escape from being Mrs. Amy Elliot Dunne, she finds herself controlled by an even more sinister patriarch. Desi exhibits typical emotionally abusive tactics such as controlling Amy’s food and clothing. The entire lake house becomes a secret façade where he can enact his deeply infantilizing fantasies of Amy. These dreams include painting a bedroom dusty rose, her favorite color as teenager, and creating a room where tulips, her favorite flower as a teenager, bloom year-round. Amy quickly realizes she made a misstep and will not be able to leave. Therefore, she decides on the lesser of the two evils. She could be Nick’s wife or Desi’s princess in a tower. By using her vulnerability and femininity, Amy trick, drugs and murdered Desi to ensure her freedom. She returns to Nick.

Amy secures her husband by becoming pregnant from the sperm sample he left at a fertility clinic. They await the birth of their first and only son. Amy Elliot Dunne’s uncontrollable female body becomes controlled through pregnancy and her production of a future patriarch. While Nick concludes, he only stays married to Amy due to pity, he is saddened she must be herself forever. Both are significantly mentally ill, Amy is a sociopathic perfectionist and Nick suffers post-traumatic stress disorder due to abuse from his father. They are the living embodiments of recession survivors, who will live together in their perfect suburban home raising their child, a ticking time bomb.

Initially based on the story of Laci and Scott Peterson, Gone Girl is a novel and film with many twists, turns and false starts, Flynn describes her work as feminist, “For me, it's also the ability to have women who are bad characters.” In an era of Trump, it may be a good idea to look back at the flawed female characters, no one can be perfect all the time. Amy Elliot Dunne is no exception.

#hysteria #VeronicaPopp #writerinresidence