Amy's diary is a symbol of the instability of narrative, and the difficulties of discerning fact from fiction. Diaries are typically thought of as places where individuals can be completely honest, and reveal their emotions and true selves. Amy manipulates this convention by using the private and authentic space of a diary as a form of marketing and performance in order to "sell" the world a false idea of herself. Amy knows that people will assume that the diary is both genuine and an authentic representation of her. By letting readers believe for a long time that the diary is true, Flynn unsettles the expectations of readers, prompting them to be more critical of the narratives they receive everyday, whether in novels, news coverage, or the stories people tell about their past. The diary symbolizes the fact that anything can be a lie, no matter how authentic it might seem.
The Catfish (Symbol)
When Amy stays in the Ozarks and realizes that she is running out of money, she agrees to go with Jeff to catch catfish. The job is dirty and physically tiring, something Amy would never have done in her previous privileged existence. The catfish experience symbolizes Amy's ruthlessness and willingness to do anything to carry out her plans. She is willing to perform physical labor in order to earn money if it gives her more time to figure out her plans. The catching and killing of the catfish is also a violent business: Jeff smashes the heads of the fish on the dock in order to kill them. Amy's willingness to take part in this work symbolizes her willingness to tolerate and participate in violence, foreshadowing what she will later do to Desi.
Cuckoo Clock (Symbol)
The cuckoo clock is a gift from Amy's parents. It hangs first in Nick and Amy's home in New York, and then in Carthage. However, the clock never works properly in their new house. The clock therefore symbolizes Nick and Amy's broken marriage. Initially beautiful and functional, it stops thriving after they move. The clock also symbolizes Amy's dislike for life in the small, Midwestern town. She always feels out of place and out of sync, just like the clock. Finally, the clock symbolizes how family legacies and history can be damaging. It seems like a lovely gesture for Amy's parents to give her a treasured heirloom. However, the way in which Amy's parents raised her is later shown as a major factor in why her personality becomes warped. Like the clock, the family dynamic did not work the way that it should.
The Mississippi River (Motif)
The Mississippi River, which flows through the town where Nick and Amy live, is a major motif in the novel. It is partially an ominous presence, since there are allusions throughout that if Amy was killed, this is likely where her body was dumped. When Amy's plan involves killing herself, she plans to do so by drowning herself in the river. The river is deep enough that it can hide secrets, and therefore the motif of water under which anything might be lurking reflects the way that characters may also be hiding secret information. The river can also appear as very beautiful. Just as Amy and Nick's marriage can be presented as a fairy-tale, and Amy herself can be presented as a beautiful and helpless woman, an attractive external appearance does not always reflect what lies beneath.
Punch and Judy Puppets (Symbol)
The Punch and Judy puppets are a symbol of the crime Amy frames Nick for. The story of Punch and Judy centers on a couple and their child. One day, Punch kills his child. When Judy discovers her husband’s crime, she is also killed by her husband. By hiding the puppets for Nick to discover, Amy symbolically asserts her power over him. She has carefully crafted a narrative in which she is the innocent victim, and he is the violent abuser. The puppets are also symbolic in two other important ways. Because of the theatrical nature of a puppet show, the puppets symbolize the way Amy scripts and directs her disappearance. She orchestrates events to make them believable and appealing to her audience. Puppets are also manipulated by a puppet master. The presence of puppets symbolizes how Amy controls what people around her think and feel, without them ever knowing that they are playing into her game.
Gone Girl Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Gone Girl is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.