Both Amy and Nick have been shaped, and to some extent, traumatized by the parenting they grew up with. Nick's father was an angry, embittered misogynist and Nick is terrified of the possibility of resembling him. While Rand and Marybeth are loving and supportive on the surface, they are very demanding, and in subtle ways, make Amy feel as though she is not good enough. This drives her to be ruthlessly demanding of herself and other around her. Parenting also casts a shadow over the end of the book; since Nick knows how destructive bad parenting can be, he is determined not to leave Amy with sole control of their child, and is trapped in his marriage as a result.
During the entire novel, the characters lie to each other and also to the reader. Amy's elaborately staged disappearance is the most visible case of dishonestly, involving many additional lies. Nick, however, also lies to both Amy and other individuals in order to conceal secrets such as his affair. The revelation that Amy's entire diary was faked shows that the reader cannot necessarily rely on the narrative. The theme of dishonesty is particularly striking and disturbing because marriage is often expected to be rooted in trust and intimacy, and yet we see that Amy and Nick lie to each other constantly.
Amy not only lies throughout the novel, she also makes strategic predictions about how other people will behave and influences and controls their behavior. While she is evil, Amy is also very intelligent and makes good use of her knowledge of psychology. Amy's manipulations are often successful because she is very beautiful and charismatic, and therefore people assume she must be a good person. Ironically, however, as Nick figures out what his wife has done and becomes furious with her, he is successfully able to manipulate her through the statements he makes to the media, enticing her back to him.
In Gone Girl, marital dysfunction is clearly seen in the two lead characters. Amy's diary presents a familiar narrative to readers, in which Nick and Amy are initially a very happy and loving couple whose relationship deteriorates due to external stress. The revelation that the diary was fake and that Amy has been dissatisfied and manipulative for a long time implies that the idea of a happy marriage can often be a fiction or a fantasy. As it becomes clear that Amy and Nick do not really know each other, or what the other is capable of, the idea of marriage is further unsettled. However, there is in the end a very dark version of the idea that the two are actually made for each other, and derive a perverse pleasure from being together.
The media is shown as an important factor in how the apparent "truth" of a situation is constructed. During the investigation into Amy's disappearance, beliefs about Nick's potential guilt result almost as strongly from the way he mishandles media appearances as they do from actual evidence against him. Whether or not Nick is actually guilty, he seems guilty and this is shown to be more important. The importance of media suggests that uncritical beliefs and snap judgments can be used to manipulate people, and reveal the importance of carefully assessing a situation.
Economic problems greatly influence the events in the novel, and play a role in the lives of almost every character. Nick and Amy's marriage takes a sharp turn for the worse after they both lose their jobs, and these economic problems are a big part of what motivates them to move to Missouri. The mostly empty subdivision they live in reflects the economic crash experienced by the town, as does the deserted mall and the gangs of unemployed men who are seen as potentially connected to Amy's disappearance. Margo has suffered her own career setbacks due to the declining economy, and even Amy's parents are short on cash. These economic problems are shown to create additional stress and bring out the worst in people. As Erica Galioto writes, "Nick and Amy are empty and dissatisfied and then little by little, lack carves itself into their relationship and into their subjectivities" (n.p.).
Misogyny, or the hatred of women, is an important theme in the novel. Nick's father hates and distrusts all women, and Nick has always been afraid of being like him. He tries to cultivate positive relationships with female characters like Margo and Detective Boney. However, as he realizes what Amy is capable of, and what she has done to him, he begins to share some beliefs about the deceitfulness and cunning of women. There have also been debates about whether Flynn's novel is itself a misogynistic text, since she portrays Amy in such a negative light, and has her do things that women are stereotypically accused of doing, such as lying about having been raped.
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.