Anyone want to discuss alternate endings? As I read towards the end of the book I was rooting for certain endings. What were you rooting for? I was hoping that Nicks father would finally act on his rage and kill Amy, thus freeing nick from both of them!
I think that the ending could be looked upon as unsatisfying. However, it was also symbolic, in a way.
Gone Girl was not just your typical suspense novel, but something of a microcosm for marriage in general. Of course, raging, murderous sociopaths like Amy are rare specimens indeed. But marriages in which people make little compromises, spend time acting, and set out to "improve" the other are about as common as trees. So while Nick reflects that he hates Amy but he's never been better than when he's loving her, trying to beat her game, he's not just talking about his own sociopathic wife-- he's also sort of personifying the games we all play with each other in relationships; the conditions we impose on those we love ("I'll love you forever...if...") and the way that, even in happy, healthy relationships, we sometimes find ourselves acting, compromising, playing a role for ourselves and the other person.
So, while this was by no means a perfect novel, I'd say that the ending fit pretty well.
As for Amy getting hers (being seen for what she was by the world, rather than even dying or going to prison-- I think the latter two would be preferable to her, honestly), I'd have liked to see it, yet this ending fit well, even if it was in some ways unsatisfying.
I agree with everything except your reservation about the book's perfection. In my opinion, pretty darn near but more importantly, I am on board with you when you point out the symbolic nature of the story as a microcosm of marriage.
Also, I think you are saying that Nick gives as good as he gets, in a sense? He is not a decent guy who just happened to stumble into a beeshive. His twisted nature is a match for Amy's; he loved her during the parts when she was playing "Cool Girl" in order to let him be selfish and unwilling to make an effort to know his wife beyond her beauty and ever present smile. When he got a glimpse of the real woman, who could be critical and act as if his waste material, lo and behold, did NOT smell like roses, then he withdraws into himself and self-pity. He thinks it's ok to console himself with a little something on the side that is offered up so willingly by the young and naive but also culpable student. He is not the first man (or woman) to cheat, but his decision to be dishonest about this to the police when his wife is missing, presumed dead, is callow to the point of stinking rotten. He needed to tell the police everything because it could have bearing on Amy's disappearance. Similarly, keeping the rest of treasure hunt from the police was an amazingly short-sighted and self-centered decision on his part.
Again and again in the first third of the book, we see how poor his judgment in doing everything he can to get Amy back. His acts have both a hint of desperation and showmanship (that is, he wants to appear concerned) about them. Going to the mall to talk with the homeless horde that lives there shows he is curious and trying to fill in the gaps he fancies the police are leaving, but it is also foolhardy. It is really more about his curiousity than his love for his wife, and in fact, that love is reignited only when he finds achingly sweet and loving notes as part of the treasure hunt. Then he feels bad because he thinks she loved him after all. The notes are fake but so is Nick, really.
Nick is the kind of person who loves only as long as he imagines he is being loved. He cannot love or recognize value beyond what the other person might do for him. This is perfect as long as Amy wants to use his self-centeredness to control him, thus she projects the image of the girl who seems head over heels and willing to accept anything from him. And she is smart; he is flattered because he knows on some level that she is "too good" for him. Of course, this is doomed to fail because Amy cannot love anyone. She can only control, and when she loses interest in controlling, watch out.
A child with Amy and Nick for parents--not a chance unless born a viper who can defend against these two. I would not create an alternate ending for this book because it really fits perfectly as is. Amy is murderous and dangerous. If Nick was a normal, decent man, he would have strangled her in a minute. But, then if he was a normal, decent man he would never have been attracted to her (beyond a brief sexual affair, of which she had plenty but Nick was the one she made the effort to keep) or accepted $80,000 from her that pretty purchased his future and tied them together when it was already looking as if that marriage was done. He had a chance to leave his "urbane" bride in New York while he went off to Missouri and he knew once he got her there, she was unhappy. Someone kidnapping her must have seemed such a happy thought to him since it meant she was gone, problem solved. Except -- well, you know.
Very good points Austensnobobsession. I (and a lot of readers I bet) probably forgot a lot of the motivation for Amy and Nick's relationship in the first place while focussing on the solution of the "crime" and the subsequent double cross. But I don't think anyone (including me) thought of Nick as a normal, decent guy--but rather as a garden variety, narcissistic sleazebag--like so many men. I can't imagine anyone as self-obsessed as him sticking with Amy once he knew who she really was, especially at the end. Why would he care so much about this baby considering his lack of interest previously? I don't feel sorry for him at all, but I do question his motivation in sticking around.
Erica, seems to me Nick's motivation for staying is that he's addicted to WHO HE IS when he is with Amy. He's addicted to how she makes him feel like "Cool Nick." He is narcissistic, but completely insecure (lost his job, etc.) and a bit stupid (smiling inappropriately for the tv cameras, etc.) underneath.
There's a quote in "Body Heat," a fantastic noir film which I highly recommend, in which Kathleen Turner says to William Hurt, "You're not too smart, are you? I like that in a man." If you liked "Gone Girl," rent this movie for a similarly entertaining, twisting ride.
Nick never feels as good about himself without Amy, and she knows this loud and clear, because she's much more intelligent than he is. And there are passages in which he is said to ache to have a baby. I'm not sure this is as strong a motivation for him to stay as his need for Amy, in spite of her evil, but it is obviously a factor.
I dunno about that. Seems that once she comes back and he knows the truth about her, he has to toe the line to avoid her wrath because she may turn on him--and his child. That doesn't sound like fun. I doubt he could feel good about staying with a psycho killer. Somehow I just don't buy it. He needs to be worshipped, like Amy once did and pretended to in those notes. She doesn't worship him anymore when she comes back, she simply controls and manipulates him which she seems to enjoy just as much. He fell for Andy as long she worshipped him. Of course, as Go noted, women eventually stop worshipping and start finding fault and that's when he loses interest. There are too many contradictions--he's scared of her but still loves who is when he 's with her? Huh! Who loves being scared of someone. Who loves a cold-blooded killer who might kill you the same way? Still don't buy the ending--but did love the book nonetheless.
Erica, you did not say this but someone did in a former comment on a different thread: "Nick is established as an intelligent, sane, fundamentally kind person." Although you did not think of Nick as a normal, decent guy, I think that probably you and others feel he is somewhat innocent in what happens between him and Amy? This is where the whole marriage symbolism thing comes in for me that Theresa pointed out. This book is about why we are attracted to certain people and why we stick with them.
The psychosis is not in one person but in the dynamics of the couple. You probably recall that Nick says at the end that Amy keeps him on his toes. He prefers that she be alive and in jail, just so long as she is still in the world. I don't believe he wants to have a physical relationship with her anymore in the way that normal, ordinary people continue to have sex with each other even when they are angry; Nick never wants to have sex with this woman again. But he wants her alive and in the world because her presence heightens his sense of being most himself. She makes him his best, like a predator stalking him. Yes, he would prefer to have her behind bars but he is not indifferent to her; he hates her but does not want her dead.
Now, to the question you raised: "Why would he care so much about this baby considering his lack of interest previously?" But he was NOT disinterested previously. I think you and others are remembering what Amy wrote in her unreliable diary. She made a point of how he did not want children. Also, when Amy and Nick announce to his mother that he is buying a bar, Mom is pleased because she thinks they are going to have a kid and Amy starts to cry because she knows that's not going to happen. But it's all Amy's hooey for show!!!
We hear from Nick directly that he thinks a child of he and Amy would be something special. Note, not just a child. Adopting to have a family is not the point. He wanted a child with Amy. He is concerned because she is getting older (38 or 39, four years older than him) and time is running out. They go through the fertilization stuff and it turns out that it does not happen. But unlike what we are hearing from Amy in her unreliable diary, Nick is genuinely unhappy that they will not be able to have a baby together.
This almost sounds decent on his part, and I will give him credit for not kicking his wife to curb because she (allegedly) cannot conceive. It's the way Amy treats him that is turning him off. He is clear that he wishes this woman who is smart and beautiful could be the mother of his child. He changes his mind when their marriage goes sour, but he never disparages the prospect of her as the mother of his child.
So, when he finds that against all odds and everything he believed possible, Amy is carrying his child and it is a boy, he is happy even when he knows he should not be. This is a continuation of his self-centered nature. This is not just a child. It is uber-child -- all the brains and beauty he and Amy can bring to the table. I suspect he would not have been as excited if his twinkie the college student had become knocked up. Although he does hate Amy when he knows what she has done and he would never have had sex with her again, he cannot resist the idea of his DNA combined with hers. With Nick, it's always me, mine--his father and mother saw him as their little prince and he now has a worthy heir on the way.
Am I interpreting him too harshly to say that his egotism in believing a child --a son!--created with the genius-bitch Amy would be too special to leave behind? Perhaps a little. It could be that this is simply a decent impulse on his part to protect his young. Who could leave a child completely in Amy's clutches, and that is what could happen if he published his book and/or tried to leave her. Amy uses the pregnancy as a club to make him play nice and she will use the child as a continuing restraint. Could he have published his expose of her with the hope that he would turn public opinion against her and perhaps win his child in a court battle? That's iffy, and we are talking about playing with the life of a child. The uber-child.
You've both made excellent points. Erica, I concede you've got me to some extent, but I still think Nick's addicted to Amy even though he fears her. Austen....your critique is right on, especially regarding "uber-child."
To me the fact that this is such a fascinating discussion proves just how good this novel is. How long can one talk back and forth about most best-sellers? AND the discussion supports how complex and subtle the ending is, despite the one-star reviewers who hate it.
Thanks, A. Woodstock, and I agree this book does stimulate discussion more than some other books that are arguably as good. I agree, too, that Erica also makes excellent points and I like being reminded that Nick was actually pretty decent toward Andy when it was over. He did not feel any jealousy for her new guy or hold it against her that she moved on; he was happy for her.
OK, here's an alternative scenario. I think Nick sticking with her is unbelievable because her crime was simply too horrendous. If Flynn had made Amy's killing of Desi a bit less premeditated--maybe she tried to escape and he tried to stop her--then she used the scenario when she returned, it would have made Nick's actions a bit more believable. He would have known she was a master manipulator and maybe he could live with that, in fact he might have to because he knew she was smarter than him and would turn whatever scenario he came up with against him, maybe he could have suspected she was a cold blooded killer, but not have actually known it for sure. Even Ted Bundy didn't actually brag about killing. Most sociopaths who kill try to keep it secret, especially from those they're close to. On some level they are ashamed of what they've done. Anyway, y'all are right, this book has so many levels it's amazing.
"I think Nick sticking with her is unbelievable because her crime was simply too horrendous." To quote 50 Cents: One man's treasure is another man's trash. What is too horrendous for one person, even most people, can be stood by someone else.
Could Nick as we saw him develop in the book stick with her, out of fear that she would get him if he left and he wants to get her first? Yes! It's "keep your friends close but your enemies closer." Nick's staying with her lines up well with the behavior he showed toward the police when he did not let them on his treasure hunt. He wants to keep an eye on her and doesn't trust anyone but himself to do it right.
As readers, we are appalled at Amy's behavior but the character of Nick does not share all our delicacies and inhibitions. Can you imagine taking your clothes off and standing in a shower with a murderer to have her tell you how she did it? Writers of fiction develop a character through what they show us, and as long as the actions are consistent within the character, it is not a fair objection to say that in general, people do not behave that way. For example, how many real people would go along with their spouse's capturing and sexually molesting pre-pubescent girls? Not many! But we know of real examples where it happened. So, while it would too much for most people to stay with Amy, knowing what she had done, the Nick character has been created to be her perfect dance partner.
P.S. Another example, taken from a book closer to my heart: In Pride and Prejudice, a lead character commits a surprising and extreme act that defines his character. We would not have expected it and the book could have been written differently (far so) if this act was not committed, this service done. It would be a different book and the iconic character would probably not be an icon. And, yet, one could argue that this is not an act most people would have done. Those of you who have the book or seen the movie or just listened to pop cultural chatter know exactly what act I am talking about. But I do NOT wish to spoil the P&P here in the unlikely case there is anyone who does not know and wants to read the book fresh. I am assuming everyone in this thread has already read "Gone Girl."
I think that in Gone Girl, Nick's deciding to stay is also that kind of defining act that is consistent with what came before but that strongly places his character. It could have been written differently but written this way, this is who he is. I understand the revulsion at his choosing to stay and the disgust at Amy's getting away with a horrible act, but like Pride and Prejudice, it would be a totally different book otherwise.
And, yes, I also understand that in the case of "Gone Girl," there will be readers who will never be able to fully accept this as the writer told it. Some will have an itch, like this thread, that attempts to modify and to make "better" sense of the book. Austen also wrote "Mansfield Park" which some critics think is even better than the more popular P&P. And, two hundred years later, people are still arguing she did not get that book right and that the wrong couples ended up together.
I am not saying that writers always get it right. Indeed, sometimes there are logical fallacies in the creation of character -- in fact, I think, often. But I personally think Gillian Flynn got it right with "Gone Girl" and I am on Austen's side when it comes to "Mansfield Park."
I have one major problem with the end of this book, and I wondered what other people think: Amy's act of going to the doctor to retrieve Nick's frozen sperm is completely trackable! Nick would just have to get others to hear Amy say that he impregnated her willingly, and then show proof that she had actually visited the office to get the specimen. While it doesn't mean they didn't have sex, it does expose Amy's lies. I felt like Nick gave up the one chance he had to expose her, and that made the book even less believable to me.
That's interesting, Laura. I had thought she retrieved the sperm at the time when she handed Nick the papers to sign for its disposal. Instead of having it destroyed, she took it herself and stored it privately in a refrigeration unit with the right temperature. If anyone knows more about how this might have been handled, I would love to hear. Turkey baster insertion when desired.
If she did leave it with the clinic and went to retrieve it only when she needed it, would that have been considered so unusual? It did belong to her and her husband, and would the sign-out have noted that she was the only actually picking it up? Would anyone have remembered?
Who works in a fertility clinic and can say how this procedure might have been conducted?
I agree killing Desi ruined the way the author wanted to end it. She should have escaped and Desi should have lived but no one believed his story. Once the author turned Amy into a stone-cold killer, the end became disappointing. Nick is staying with a murderer? I couldn't wrap my mind around it.
Yes, I think it would have been great if Go had killed Amy. She'd already done so much for her brother (double mortgaged her house to pay his attorney, kept the stuff hidden in her shed, etc.) and she had met with failure throughout her life. This would have been a chance to redeem herself. Her relationship with her brother seemed so interesting in the beginning, but then her character fizzled out a bit. I would have liked more from her.
But by killing Amy, Go would have also killed the fetus inside Amy, which is problematic. Hmm, maybe show toward the end of the book that Go was hatching up a plan to kill Amy after the baby was born?
I loved the book, but questioned Nick's acceptance of Amy at the end.