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SPOILER ALERT!!!!! How is Nick as bad as Amy?

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Initial post: Aug 24, 2012 10:45:24 PM PDT
shwamu says:
I have been going through the reviews especially the one star reviews and have realized that a lot of people consider Nick as narcissistic and as deeply flawed as Amy. I don't get it. Unless there are parts of the book I skipped, Nick seems pretty normal to me. He is the nice guy who isn't really nice for the right reasons but I can say that a whole lot of men are like this. Men who will bend over backwards to make others like them simply to feel good about themselves. The only thing he does that is out of the ordinary ( not even that bad considering the times we live in) is cheat on the wife he no longer loves. Is this as bad as his wife framing him for murder and planning to commit suicide so he is locked up forever.( she only changed her mind later on about the suicide). He also has daddy issues ( Many people do). We find out that the abuse is fabricated as well so how exactly are Nick and Amy perfect for each other. Seems to me like Nick is paying a very heavy price for cheating.

Posted on Sep 2, 2012 7:30:08 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 2, 2012 7:34:37 AM PDT
E. Weiland says:
From Nick's perspective, he is pretty normal. Everyone else describes him as shockingly callow and detached. He's possibly a psychopath. Charming, but coldhearted, incredibly self-centered, lacking in empathy. Talented at manipulation. Like Amy, it takes a bit of thinking on his part to figure out what a "normal" reaction would be to any given situation, even ones that would be deeply emotional to most of us. And then, under very stressful circumstances, he is able to convincingly act how he's supposed to for the cameras, while we see how chillingly detached and cunning he's being.

He's also full of rage at his wife long before she disappears. And he tends towards misogyny, but to his credit, even he realizes this.

Posted on Sep 17, 2012 9:46:34 PM PDT
VanillaMoon says:
Keep in mind through most of the story Nick never KNEW Amy was framing him. So basically what you have here is a guy who took his wife's last 80,000 dollars to start a bar where he himself tells us he never really works hard and leaves it all for his twin sister to do. Then when Amy no longer wants to be the "Cool Girl" and overlook Nick's selfishness, he turns on her.

He begins to hate Amy simply for making him feel guilty about treating her so badly, not because she'd ever actually done anything to him at that point. Then he tries to write a manuscript for a novel depicting himself as the great American hero who gave up his big city life to care for his ailing parents. Which he never does. He leaves that to Amy to do. And granted Amy has her own selfish reasons for pretending to be the dutiful daughter in law, but Nick doesn't KNOW that. But he damn sure knows that he's sitting on his ass in his bar while his sister and his wife take care of his business and his parents. Oh and he tries to cash in on Amy's fame in that manuscript by saying BTW the wife in this memoir is Amazing Amy.

Nick Dunne uses everyone around him for his own selfish reasons. He starts an affair and then when it gets inconvenient he drops the girl and nearly snaps in a rage when she defies him. He grabbed her arms but she ended up biting him on the face and running. I'm not so sure Nick wouldn't have either beat the crap out of Andie or outright killed her for becoming a problem and a threat to his freedom.

He tells us that for the last year he had purposely been cold to Amy to make HER divorce HIM and therefore he could keep the Bar. I'm not saying all this excuses what Amy did to him, but Nick Dunne is NOT a nice guy, by any stretch. I think if he wasn't so concerned with people liking him, he'd be a serial killer.

Nick is a compulsive liar and a sociopath. He doesn't have anything close to real emotions. He's just as messed up as Amy.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2012 11:57:20 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 19, 2012 5:15:49 AM PDT]

Posted on Sep 22, 2012 3:16:35 PM PDT
Paul Cohen says:
Nick does not start the affair; the girl comes on to him. He does not drop her "when it is inconvenient," he drops her at the urging of his lawyer while he is facing a murder charge. He feels very bad about it, and has real feelings for the girl. Where does one get the idea that Nick might kill Andie? He has plenty of reason to kill Amy, but he is unable to do it, even with his hands around her neck, he can't go through with it. Nick is weak, lazy and selfish, but psychopath? sociopath? Not even close!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2012 7:26:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 22, 2012 7:38:48 PM PDT
"Nick does not start the affair; the girl comes on to him."

So, any husband or wife is morally in the clear as long as someone comes on to them? Saying no and honoring one's marriage vows is not to be expected?

"He does not drop her "when it is inconvenient," he drops her at the urging of his lawyer while he is facing a murder charge."

Nick treats Andie like the convenience she is. He does not love her. She scratches an itch for him. His main fear at first is that the police will find out about her existence and that will make him look bad. It is never about loving her as a unique person. When his lawyer tells him he must cut her loose, he is not heartbroken because she really does not matter to him -- beyond physical comfort and ego boost. To love someone is to admire them for characteristics and personality/soul beyond the overt things they do for you. Some married people involved in affairs use the person they are cheating with as a way of serving their needs, like a restaurant patron calls upon servers to bring the food.

"He feels very bad about it, and has real feelings for the girl."

I would hate to see what unreal feelings are if Nick's feelings are real. Can you truly imagine Nick ever having a permanent relationship with Andie once she was not convenient? Yes, Nick is glad to see her with a new guy. It does not matter to him, and he gets to look noble to readers as he tells us he sent her a congratulatory text. I do not buy it.

"He has plenty of reason to kill Amy, but he is unable to do it, even with his hands around her neck, he can't go through with it."

Here is a prime example of where the reading does not go deep enough and the summary you offer is too simplistic. If you still have the book available, then go the chapter toward the end titled "Nick Dunne: The Night of the Return." Nick refrains from killing Amy not out of morality or even simple repugnance for the act of killing but because he recognizes that the two of them are a matched pair. He wants to conquer her, not do something so mundane as physically killing her. Let me quote just a short portion from the book:

Amy was toxic, yet I couldn't imagine a world without her entirely. Who would I be with Amy just gone? There were no options that interested me anymore. But she had to be brought to heel. Amy in prison, that was a good ending for her.

Flynn, Gillian (2012-06-05). Gone Girl: A Novel (p. 397). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

But you really need to read and absorb the entire chapter in order to understand the twisted nature of the relationship the author is writing here.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2012 7:39:25 AM PDT
Paul Cohen says:
I was not attempting to make Nick into a fine human being. I was responding to the "sociopath" charge that the person I responded to used. His failure to "love" sufficiently in your view, does not make him a sociopath, for all his flaws. Your response to me, then, has nothing to do with the point I was making. And as I wrote in another string, when Nick is choking Amy, he is not philosophizing about the meaning of their life together. He makes an instantaneous, life or death decision. The portion you quote is a rationalization, not a summary of his thoughts while he had his hands around her neck. He is not a killer, not a psychopath, not a sociopath, and that is all I was arguing. Your disagreements with me about the quality of the ending of the book are a totally different issue.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2012 11:53:02 AM PDT
No, Paul, if you read the book, you understand that what the author is describing is NOT an "instantaneousl" decision. Perhaps you would have written that way, but that is not the way it is written in the book.

Also, strangling someone is not an "instantaneous" decision. It takes time; to do so is not the work of a moment. From the way this incident is written, he does think as he is gripping her throat about what he will achieve. Some people at such a moment might be driven by their anger and outrage. He is plenty angry but with his hands around her throat, he thinks of who he is relative to her. He even points out that this is not because of some platitude about not killing or being more moral than she is.

I believe it is important for readers to attempt to understand what a writer is saying. That sounds simplistic but that is really all I am saying. Not every writer takes the same events and writes about them in the same way. It's perfectly fine in my opinion to disagree with a writer but do try to show that you actually understood what she or he said.

You also wrote, "The portion you quote is a rationalization, not a summary of his thoughts while he had his hands around her neck." Please note that I said I was quoting only a small portion of the chapter, but I contend that you mis-read and misunderstood the chapter. This is not meant to be a put-down of you. It's just that you keep declaring what is wrong with the ending of the book, and I think you have glossed over the intricacy of what the author tells us about these two characters' pyschology and interaction.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2012 12:11:40 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 23, 2012 12:13:06 PM PDT
Jami, your summary of Nick is great fun to read and I think you nailed it.

In the chapter where Nick and Andie see each other alone for the last time, she struggles with him and bites his cheek in order to make him let go of her. We see these events from Nick's point of view, and it's easy to speculate that from Andie's point of view, her extreme reaction meant she was afraid he would hurt her. I also think that from what Nick says later about how an ordinary, non-Amy woman would not be able to hold his attention, he might have far fewer qualms killing a woman who is not Amy.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2012 2:50:39 PM PDT
Paul Cohen says:
Yet my objection to the ending is NOT over justice, or over who was evil and who was not. And my point in this discussion was just that Nick is no sociopath. I did not misunderstand the chapter, although it is consistent with your method of argument to put down as "less attentive" those with whom you disagree. I have made it very clear that my objection to the ending is almost entirely a function of its improbability - that I reached the "oh come on" moment. None of your arguments have anything to do with that, nor could they. We each have a different standard of plausibility, and mine is higher than yours. This does not make me a "more informed reader" than you, just a different one. It does not make me a less attentive reader either. It is worth reminding you that while I have been consistently respectful to you and your point of view, the reverse is not true. Let us disagree without any implication that one of us is a "better reader" than the other. I am willing to leave it at that, and if you cannot, then it says something about you rather than about the book.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2012 3:46:34 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 23, 2012 3:49:08 PM PDT
Paul, I as well as others here disagree with you about Nick; we would argue that he is a sociopath. You, and again, I am sure, others, prefer to see him as a basically nice guy who happened to get caught up with a crazy wife. While I think there are ways of supporting one point of view better than the other, in this forum the question must become: You say to-may-to and I say to-mah-to. We will have to disagree.

Although you claim you did not misunderstand the chapter in which Nick decided not to kill his wife, you admit you have not read it recently because you do not have the book. I have the book and I checked back to see what the author wrote. But it's hard to have a discussion with you about it if you insist upon declaring that you absolutely know what is there with no need to refresh your memory. So, again, but we're stalemated there.

Now, as to certain points of plausibility.

1. Amy spent over a year planning how to frame her husband for her apparent abduction. When the police checked alibis of various persons of interest, nothing was conclusive. Desi was not ruled out as a suspect but they could never definitely link him. This is how police investigations work, almost always messier and more smudged than the black-and-white certainty of a chemical formula.

2. Amy knows how to manipulate The Court of Public Opinion. It can be as significant as forensic evidence, especially if the evidence can be interpreted in more than one way. In reality, innocent people are convicted of crimes and guilty ones go free sometimes. A part of this story is how someone like Amy can play people who are playing by the rules.

3. Amy has created a web to make Nick look guilty should he decide to attempt to expose her. A part of that is the shed with the items she purchased using his credit card. The fact that she was abducted and has not returned does not remove the cloud suspicion that he was overspending and hiding his purchases. It's something that could be forgotten now that Amy is back, or she could pull it out in order to use it as evidence of irresponsibility and perhaps more.

4. You argued that Amy could not have saved Nick's sperm from their adventures at a fertility clinic and used it later to self-impregnate. In an earlier comment, I provided directions to web sites about women who in reality do this and about one particular famous example of a man who provides his sperm via the Internet. Women who do not have money to go through the expensive procedures of a fertility clinic have been successful. I get your point about plausiblity for Amy's little trick on Nick, and it's not easy and foolproof but doable.

5. As to whether it would have been more plausible for Nick to get have intercourse with Amy in order to impregnate her, I disagree that would be more plausible. Given what we see of these characters when Amy returns, I would find it hard to believe that Nick would touch Amy in that way again.

You accuse me of not being respectful of your point of view, and the only reason that I can see for that charge is that I point out you are failing to read certain aspects of the book adequately. I respect the fact that you are an author of chemistry text books and I respect the articulateness of your comments. But, you are right that I disagree with much of what you say about this book because I don't think you have read it well enough or remember it clearly. As to whether, as you say it says something about me rather than the book that I decided to respond to your last comment--so be it.

Posted on Sep 23, 2012 4:45:40 PM PDT
Paul Cohen says:
You really need to look up "sociopath." Even you admit in an earlier post on a string about alternate endings that Nick really feels bad about Andie, and is happy she finds someone else.Your comments above (about 24 hours ago) appear to contradict what you wrote in that post. A sociopath would not care at all. Amy fits the definition, since she is able to kill an innocent person in cold blood, frame two others, and feels no guilt whatever. There is an enormous difference between weak, selfish, dishonest - and sociopath. You agree with me that item 4 is possible but improbable. I provided you with the statistics, less than a 10% chance of success in a woman of her age, if carried out properly at the right time and temperature. Yet Amy is apparently counting on it. That the police would be unable to rule out Desi based on cell phone records and witnesses is extremely unlikely, but yes, possible. That they would fail to charge Amy after discovering that Desi was most likely asleep when he was killed is also possible, but unlikely. And you accept Desi's decision to share his home with a cold-blooded murderess, even before she becomes pregnant, as plausible, while I do not. For me, when you multiply all the implausibilities you approach impossibility. ( That is how probability theory works) It has nothing to do with how adequately I read the book, since most of my objections have to do with events rather than any motivations you claim to understand and claim that I do not. The difference between your interpretation and mine rests entirely on a different view of the stream of events. Nor did I ever say I absolutely know what is there (in the choking episode), and putting words in my mouth is about as dishonest as misrepresenting what I wrote in another string, when I was simply arguing against the "sociopath" label. As to your disrespect, which included personal attacks (at one time) that you retracted, (if I recall correctly), it goes beyond differences in interpretation. It comes down to a pretentious intolerance for opposing points of view, and can be seen in your comments to others, not just to me. Also, during our initial discussions I had just read the book, and so remembered it clearly.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2012 5:54:52 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 23, 2012 5:56:10 PM PDT
I think that is now the second time you have accused me of being pretentious and intolerant, and those are charges I take seriously. Posting here is supposed to be fun, and I hope my comments entertain. If I'm understanding your tone correctly, you feel offended, and for that I offer apologies. I would not want to hurt your feelings or anyone's. Thankfully, no one else has complained.

Nick's willingness to lie to the police when his wife is missing, not to mention his withdrawal and insensitivity from his wife once he had transplanted her from New York to an environment she hated reflect the sociopathy of one who does NOT care for the feelings of others and is willing to manipulate and deceive. Getting his own way is always his primary goal. That's why he liked Amy at first, when she catered to him -- being the Cool Girl who liked sports, who did not insist that he show up to little social events with her girlfriends. He was willing to jump through the hoops that this woman whom he perceived as the ultimate in beauty and brains demanded. But then they both got tired and the masks slipped. Underneath, Amy is ugly but Nick is not pretty either. In my opinion, he goes ways beyond lazy or selfish. For example, what does he do when his mother is dying of cancer? What does he do when his wife is missing? What does he care about his twinkie once his lawyer says she's a liability?

It is not that Nick is incapable of love. He loves his twin sister. After all, she is a part and an extension of him. He will probably love the child he has on the way, who shares the DNA of a woman who is still brilliant although a killer. Nick's self-centered, the-world-revolves-me around meishness hits the sociopathic range in my opinion.

One can legitimately have different views of events, but it is important to be clear about the events. When Nick decides to stay with Amy, it's not a casual thing where he does not know what else to do and has no place else to go. It's important to understand that Nick wants to get Amy, to "put her in a box," and that is why he is staying. He is not some innocent guy underestimating the viper he lives with. He is a viper, too, and he wants to take her down.

A more mentally healthy individual would give up the grudge and walk away. But Nick and Amy are in a dance of death, two of a kind, and it is no coincidence that they came together in the first place or that when Nick had a chance to kill her, he did not. Particularly in the last case, the event is not merely that he did not kill her but why he did not kill her. If you don't get that, you miss a key piece of information provided by the author in the context of this book. That is not defined by probability theory but by, as I said before and forgive me for repeating, being able to read and recall the book correctly.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2012 8:10:49 PM PDT
Paul Cohen says:
You know that you have occasionally crossed the line into personal attacks, and to your credit you have apologized before. The term "sociopath" refers to a person with a psychopathic personality, whose behavior is often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience. The character of Nick, as drawn by Flynn, is not psychopathic, (I do not think that Flynn herself would call him that) although very flawed. I do not insist that Nick is mentally healthy, to use your words, but there are several levels between his pathology and "sociopath." To apply the same term to him and her equates an unrepentant perjurer and murderess with an innocent (in the legal sense) but shallow and selfish man.
I have no argument with you about why he did not kill her, although I do have one about what passes through one's mind during the enormous physical exertion required to attempt to cause death by choking. I completely accept your account as to what the book actually says; I trust you completely, and would not check even if I still had the book. You continue to argue against points that I am not making. (and your "What does he care about his twinkie" line contradicts your earlier view on the "alternate ending" string) My doubts about whether Nick, as drawn, would stay with a dangerous murderess, are just one part of my objection to the ending. With better attention to other details, I still would not have liked it, but I would have accepted it. We have now said essentially the same things to each other several times, and I respect your analysis of the characters and their motives; I think that you are in fact a more careful reader, and a better analyst than I in that respect. (and I apologize for calling you names, which is not my nature at all, especially at this time of year, when I am obliged to ask forgiveness of anyone I have offended) But accepting your view of the characters and their motivations, I would still downgrade the book on the basis of the chain of highly improbable events that lead to the ending. I originally gave the book three stars, but I am now leaning to four. And I love Jane Austin's books, by the way. ( I actually went on a tour of Lyme Regis during which the tour guide pointed out sites that may have been referenced in Persuasion. That was very long ago.) Be well.

Posted on Oct 8, 2012 5:24:39 AM PDT
JKM says:
I am not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, but I dare say that Amy is indeed a sociopath. That is abundantly clear. It is written in the book in Amy's voice about Nick that "he is a man of a million little fatherly stab wounds, and my thorns fit perfectly into them". Yes, indeed! Nick is certainly a narcissist and most likely a sociopath. "Birds of a feather" comes to mind as well as, "they deserve each other". Both have learned what emotions are appropriate, at what times, and are manipulative parrots. Both lack empathy. Both are misogynists. Neither spend much time on genuine introspection other than to note what emotion, behavior needs to be shown in order to manipulate, deceive others.

Are sociopaths made or are they born that way? Or both? It is telling that Nick stays with Amy with the self deceiving intent that HE is going to save the child from HER.

Posted on Dec 2, 2012 7:17:44 AM PST
Bookworm says:
Nick is selfish, and he's a poor husband. But Amy is in another league. Even before she married Nick, she had a history of plotting to destroy the reputations of people who "wronged" her. She murders someone in cold blood. She's a true sociopath who can't feel any empathy for others. With all Nick's faults, I feel sorry for him at the end.

Posted on Jan 13, 2013 6:52:31 PM PST
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In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2013 6:48:09 AM PST
Phillip says:
Most of the bad stuff was defined by Amy's diary. So you have to take it with a grain of salt.
I still think Nick is a pr---. He definitely had his head up his butt, not realizing the situation he was in with all those stupid childish lies. And he shouldn't have taken his wife's money to later cheat on her.
Nick's stubbornness of not having Gilpin tag along on the scavenger hunt was another idiotic thing to do.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 21, 2013 8:36:25 AM PST
Karen Lloyd says:
Hi, I just finished reading this book. I wanted to read what others had thought about it and got reading the back and forth here on Nick. Just had to say that I agree with Paul Cohen's persepctive on this. As a objective observer I found it interesting that "austensnobobession" sounds like someone who is obsessed with needing to be right - an Amy-like quality. Anyway, I found the character of Amy to be a total psychopath and Nick to be a regular guy who skated through life on good looks and charm until he was forced to step up his mental game by Amy's psychotic scheme. I found nothing about Nick to be psychopathic.
Thanks to you all for your highly interesting commentary. It's great when a book really makes you think and want to keep analyzing the characters.

Posted on Jan 22, 2013 9:44:47 AM PST
A. Murphy says:
JKM wrote: I am not a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, but I dare say that Amy is indeed a sociopath. That is abundantly clear. It is written in the book in Amy's voice about Nick that "he is a man of a million little fatherly stab wounds, and my thorns fit perfectly into them". Yes, indeed! Nick is certainly a narcissist and most likely a sociopath.

Well, as a clinical psychologist, I would just like to hop in here and help out. There are few, if any, symptoms of sociopathy ascribed to Nick by Gillian in her novel. Of course Amy is almost a case study in psychopathy, although whether someone who is so extremely APD would really want to go back to Nick after her plans unravel is surely debatable.

So from a purely clinical perspective, we can answer the question, is Nick (as written in this book) a sociopath in the negative.

From a literary perspective, I would toss out that if you weren't, on some level, rooting for Nick to survive in the second half of the book, then the book probably didn't work as Flynn planned it. And it would be very hard to create a truly sociopathic character who you end up rooting for - although I guess anything's possible.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 1, 2013 10:18:32 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 1, 2013 10:35:05 PM PST
silverbook says:
The stuff in Amy's diary is likely mostly true but skewed to make Diary Amy look like a doting doormat. Meaning he did actually ditch her on an anniversary to go to a bar. Amy was too smart to make the diary complete fiction. She needed to make sure that events involving others could be fact checked by the police.

Nick is just a jerk. He doesn't want women other than his sister, to be real people with complexities. When Amy was still pretending with him, he loved it, when she stopped, he couldn't deal. So he went for someone new. It is pretty clear that his arrangement with Andie, is just about Nick. Once she starts showing that she has needs, he is completely turned off.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 12, 2013 6:32:56 PM PDT
Book Maven says:
I agree with you. Also, when Andie stopped being the "Cool Girl", Nick would have either dumped her or killed her. She had already started getting demanding. I think that at some point she would have drove him over the edge with her demands and he would have choked the life out of her.

Posted on Mar 17, 2013 10:32:39 AM PDT
B says:
I don't think of Nick as a sociopath. If he was, he wouldn't have bothered to stay to help and love his son because sociopaths have no feelings and can't love. Nick is definetly not husband material, is weak, shallow and has alot of issues with women. He's also passive-agressive. But he as the ability to care and to love so I would not call him a psychopath. Amy on the other hand only gets pregnant to trap Nick into staying with her and of coarse she sets out to frame nick and kills Des. Definetly a sociopath. To me the only major unrealistic things to me are the fact that the police accept her story so easily and that she gets taken in by Greta and Jeff so easily which defiently doesn't fit her personality. Didn't really understand that aspect of the story.
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Discussion in:  Gone Girl forum
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Initial post:  Aug 24, 2012
Latest post:  Aug 14, 2013

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Hardcover - June 5, 2012)
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