What is Margo's significance in the novel?
Margo is important in the novel because she functions as a woman who is fiercely loyal to Nick. As a result, she affirms his trustworthiness and creates sympathy for the character. Even when Nick struggles with anger and hatred towards most women, he acts lovingly towards Margo, and this functions as a kind of redemption for him. Because Margo is Nick's twin sister, she functions as a kind of surrogate self and indicates that he is capable of true intimacy and closeness with a woman. Margo's presence suggests that Amy is the problem, and the one who brings out the worst in Nick.
Is Amy's representation of the Cool Girl figure accurate?
Amy is a highly unreliable narrator who tells many lies. Even the events she reports accurately are filtered through her warped perspective. However, for all of her abnormal tendencies, Amy is still highly intelligent and perceptive. Amidst all her lies, Amy sometimes reveals truths. Her comments about social expectations around women, and the impossibly high standards they are expected to meet, carry significant truth. The crushing demands are in fact partly why Amy starts lying and pretending in the first place. Because her upbringing made her believe she needs to be perfect, Amy thinks the only way Nick will ever love her is if she embodies the role of the Cool Girl. The speech introduces an element of feminist critique into the novel, as scholar Emily Johansen writes when she explains, "Amy suggests that she would rather burn the world down than succumb to its gendered division of care—although she (and the novel) are hesitant to frame this preference in the language of feminism, despite the potential to read her anger through this lens" (45).
How are Amy and Nick both influenced by their childhoods?
Amy and Nick have relatively different childhood experiences, but both are shaped by them. Amy's parents give her many opportunities, but they also demand perfection from her. They are obsessive and controlling, leaving Amy feeling inadequate. As a result of her relationship with her parents, Amy demands an extreme amount from others. This fact gradually damages her relationship with Nick because she is never satisfied with him. Nick, on the other hand, grew up witnessing a very unhappy relationship between his parents, and was repelled by the anger and cruelty of his father. This makes him desperate to please people and create a good impression of himself. These are traits that work against him during the early investigation.
What societal expectations and norms does Amy rely on in order to execute her plan?
Amy conducts her plan very carefully. She knows that as a beautiful woman from a wealthy family there will be media attention on her case. Amy relies on the expectation that women are most often murdered by their husbands and boyfriends in order to create immediate suspicion around Nick. She also knows Nick will be too genuine and trusting when he interacts with the media, creating a bad impression of himself. Amy's diary creates an image of a sweet and sympathetic woman who people will feel concerned about. The final expectation Amy relies on is that the news of her pregnancy will make her seem even more vulnerable, and create even more concern for her. As Rhiannon Cosslett explains, "By using society’s propensity to pigeonhole women as vulnerable victims... you could argue that [Amy] is taking back the power in her relationship. As a woman, she has been forced to embody a succession of tedious female stereotypes, but she twists this oppressive force in order to get her own way" (n.p).
Why does Nick stay with Amy at the end of the novel?
Nick's apparent reason for staying with Amy at the end of the novel is his love for his unborn son. He knows that if he behaves in a way Amy doesn't like, she will make sure he has no contact with the child and possibly even eventually turn the child against him. Nick is traumatized by his poor relationship with his own father and cannot bear to see his son grow up in a similar way. Nick may also feel afraid that without him there to provide a good example, Amy may warp their child into someone as evil as she is.