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Literature / Gone Girl

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"When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. I picture cracking her lovely skull, unspooling her brains, trying to get answers. The primal questions of any marriage: 'What are you thinking?', 'How are you feeling?', 'What have we done to each other?'."
Nick Dunne, opening narration.

A 2012 thriller novel by Gillian Flynn about a married couple, Nick and Amy Dunne, whose marriage has slid from picture-perfect to downright frosty over the course of five years. Then, on the morning of their fifth anniversary, Amy disappears. There are signs of a struggle, and Nick soon realizes he's the prime suspect.

Nick narrates the investigation of Amy's disappearance, while in alternate chapters Amy's diary tells the history of their relationship. But there are hints that some things have been left out.

A film version directed by David Fincher, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, was released in 2014.

Please note that much of the suspense in the book (and the movie) comes from the numerous twists and turns. A majority of the tropes below are completely spoilered out, and thanks to Interface Spoiler, it's not even guaranteed that you won't figure out the twists just by reading what's below. With that said, read at your own risk.

Gone Girl provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Nick's dad was a raging misogynist, and while he never hit Go or Nick, or their mother, it's clear his parenting caused issues for both of them later in life.
    • Rand and Marybeth to Amy in a much more insidious form. Writing a best-selling children's book series based on your daughter from the time she's a young girl, but making fake Amy thrive in everything real Amy failed at and hailing her as this flawless, beautiful, kind paragon of virtue, didn't do Amy's young psyche any favors. It's implied that they weren't nearly as emotionally available as was necessary for her to develop the same emotional range that most other people have, and it started so early on that she remembers being at a birthday party when she was little and not understanding why the other kids were having any fun.
  • Aesop Collateral Damage: In-Universe, Amy's Evil Plan has a lot of this. She even says that the best part of it is that "everyone gets punished." The main goal is to punish Nick, but there are several indirect targets. Let us count the ways...
    • The items Amy bought to frame Nick as a reckless spender were planted in Go's shed, meaning Go now looks like an accomplice. Worst case scenario, Go could go to prison. Even if she's cleared, she still has to watch her twin brother get the death penalty for something he didn't do. This one's probably the worst, since, unlike the others, Go didn't actually do anything to Amy.
    • Amy's parents have to believe that their (pregnant) child was murdered by her own husband. Also invoked when Amy is furious that Rand and Marybeth are treated kindly by the press coverage, which do not mention their extreme debts and overspending, and the failure of their book series.
    • Andie has to watch her boyfriend be jailed and possibly killed for something he didn't do. She also has to deal with Nick not spending time with her, due to, you know, being a murder suspect. She also probably has to seriously wonder if Nick did kill Amy, if only just for a moment. And then there's the possibility of the affair getting out... though Andie manages to get ahead of that one by revealing it herself in a press conference.
  • Afraid of Blood: Amy, to the point of passing out at the plasma clinic. Later, we find out she's not — she just told people she was so no one would suspect she faked her abduction, where she had to bleed, a lot.
  • Alliterative Title: Gone Girl. In-Universe "Amazing Amy".
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: In-Universe, Hilary provides one for Amy. Hilary theorizes that at least part of the real reason Amy "punishes" people is because they saw that Amy's less than perfect. She also thinks that the wrongdoings Amy gives as her reasons are just excuses.
    • There's a much more subtle example of this lying inside of Amy's diary. Though most of what she says is at least somewhat fabricated or enhanced, there are times where she is honest. She mentions once that during an argument, Nick pushed her violently to the ground and caused her to hit her head. Combined with the fact that Nick has the potential in him to be physically violent (as seen towards the end of the book when he almost chokes her to death) this may not be false, and shows a much more sinister and unsettling side of Nick.
  • Always on Duty: Detective Boney and her partner are on the case day and night.
  • Anachronic Order: Towards the beginning, there's a scene that takes place at the very end of the story; from there, the narrative goes back and forth between Amy's disappearance and her relationship/marriage with Nick before settling on the latter. Then it jumps back to show how Amy faked her own abduction before going back to the present.
  • Angst? What Angst?: In-Universe. Nick is perceived as this trope by the general public because he has a hard time looking sad for the camera. In fact, at one point he slips up so badly that he smiles while on a news broadcast about Amy's disappearance. As if that wasn't bad enough, the media latches onto the Nick-isn't-sad-enough angle and really blows it up.
  • Anthropic Principle: The story could have been a lot shorter if Amy or Nick had simply sought out a divorce. But Gillian Flynn wanted to tell a particular story, so her story is centered around a vengeful wife who has decided divorce is too merciful for her husband, and an elaborate scheme to frame him for her murder is much more poetic.
  • Anti-Climax: The conflict between Amy and Nick is not being resolved in a dramatic finale but lingers on as they stay together, and Nick seemingly beginning to love Amy again, resulting in No Ending.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: What would happen to Nick and Amy's child? They're both going to find out.
  • At Least I Admit It: Amy heaps scorn upon "Cool Girls," women who pretend to be what men want in a woman. However, for herself, Amy enjoys the challenge of making new personas and trying them on. When Desi has her trapped, becoming Desi's perfect version of Amy is a useful distraction tactic.
  • Awful Wedded Life: The whole aim of the book seems to be taking this up to eleven with Amy and Nick, starting with the question of whether Nick is merely a crummy husband or an outright murderer and ending in the most demented possible variant on The Baby Trap from Amy, with just about every Exaggerated take on the ways married people can hurt each other in-between.
  • The Baby Trap: An interesting variant. Nick wants to have children with Amy, to the point of starting fertility treatments, but Amy changes her mind and has the sperm samples destroyed.... or so Nick thinks. Amy turns out to have kept the sample on ice. After she frames Nick for her murder, he naturally wants nothing more to do with her, but she impregnates herself with his stored sperm, believing that he'd rather stay with her than abandon his child. The ploy works.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Amy gets everything she wanted in the end, coming off as a heroic victim and suffering no consequences for her actions, although Nick seems to have the final word on the very last page, and what he says bothers Amy immensely.
    Amy: This morning he was stroking my hair and asking what else he could do for me, and I said: "My gosh, Nick, why are you so wonderful to me?" He was supposed to say: Because you deserve it. I love you. But he said, "Because I feel sorry for you." "Why?" "Because every morning you have to wake up and be you." I really, truly wish he hadn't said that. I keep thinking about it. I can't stop.
  • Beauty Is Bad: Applies to both Amy and Nick. Both attractive, both horrible, horrible people. Nick inverts this in a musing he has early on, looking at Detective Boney and thinking that his mother, grandmother, all the women he admired were salt-of-the-earth, warm, friendly, and ugly.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Nick does not like being compared to his father.
    • Amy's is triggered by attempts to control her.
  • Betty and Veronica Switch:
    • The more inexperienced Andie may seem like the Betty to Amy's Veronica with Nick being the Archie, but Amy is Nick's wife, while Andie is his 20 year old mistress.
    • Desi and Nick to Amy's Archie. Desi may seem like a nice, clean-cut guy—but he also stalks Amy. Nick may seem like a simple guy or even a sociopath, but he is Amy's husband—while millionaire Desi is not.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: All characters are flawed to different degrees. While both Amy and Nick are pictured as unlikable psychopaths in the book, Amy takes the cake when killing Desi and trying to get Nick wrongly accused of murder.
  • Book Ends: Nick's opening monologue, which is given more context and is expanded upon the second time around.
  • Break the Cutie: Happens to Andie. She genuinely has feelings for Nick and felt more and more abandoned when he shut her out following Amy's disappearance. The last physical appearance of her is a television interview in which she confesses to their affair, crying and humiliated.
  • Break the Haughty: When Amy gets robbed and battered by Greta and her boyfriend.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Nick speaks directly to the audience in his narration, occasionally outright referring to the viewer as "you." This helps us feel like we're along for the ride with him, and helps us sympathize with him (even in moments when he may not actually deserve it). From Part Two on, Amy does the same thing.
  • Brick Joke: Stucks Buckly, one of Nick's childhood friends, claims that Amy once brought him a cold drink when he was working outside on a hot day. Nick is annoyed that he's making things up for attention - Amy would never do a kindness for a stranger. Later we find out Amy genuinely did it, as part of building up a good reputation before her disappearance.
  • Catchphrase: In-universe, Amazing Amy's is "Sheesh!" Even when the character is an adult. Real Amy finds this particularly grating.
    Amy: "Sheesh, my beloved fiancé sure can be a grouch-monster when he doesn't get his way." This is an actual quote from the book. The whole thing made me want to punch Amy right in her stupid, spotless vagina.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Nick recalls that after Amy apparently changed her mind about wanting a baby, the fertility clinic eventually sent them a notice asking whether they still wanted to use his sperm samples, which would be destroyed otherwise. He passive-aggressively left it lying around for Amy to deal with and when it disappeared, he assumed Amy had thrown it out. As it turns out, she actually did get back to them and request that they save the sperm.
  • Children as Pawns: The future that lies ahead for Nick and Amy's child. After being trapped by Amy's pregnancy, Nick agrees to stay with her, but after she threatens to push their child into accusing him of abuse, he understands that they both have a lifetime ahead of using the child (and how it's raised) against each other.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Andie. Seriously, girl, your boyfriend is under investigation for a murder. You can't stay away for a few weeks?
  • Colbert Bump: In-universe. Nick manages to turn the public perception of his case around by opening up in his interview with Sharon Schieber.
  • Complexity Addiction: Amy's plan involves leaving a trail of clues all over town, some in very unlikely places, as well as bleeding herself, spilling the blood, and then cleaning it up in the way Nick would, just to heighten the suspicion when the police did find it. See Gambit Roulette.
  • Country Matters: The word "cunt" is used multiple times in only one conversation, when Amy admits to being practically a sociopath. It also doubles as N-Word Privileges given that a woman is the one who says it.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Amy. At one point some of Amy's pre-haircut blonde hairs are found in Desi's trunk, supporting her abduction story. Nick speculates that she probably had kept a bag of her longer hair...just in case. Not to mention all the junk she hoards in the shed to make Nick look like a greedy little cheat, draining the toilet so she could steal pregnant Noelle's urine to use for a pregnancy test...the list goes on and on.
  • Criminal Mind Games: The clues left by Amy for Nick.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone, but Margo probably takes the cake.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Amy's modus operandi. She frames a bad friend for assault, frames a cheating boyfriend for rape, frames a cheating husband for murder, and we hear of her spending a year working on getting a truck driver who cut her off fired.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Desi is a particularly obsessive variant, as evidenced by his "protection" of Amy.
  • Domestic Abuse: Nick's father was incredibly psychologically, verbally and emotionally abusive towards Maureen, but Nick notes he likely justified it because he never caused her physical abuse. He suspects this is why his twin sister remains unmarried and hates crying in front of men, fearing dismissal.
  • Downer Ending: Hoo boy. Amy gets away with her schemes at the end, having successfully planted the blame on Desi, and using her pregnancy to keep Nick with her for at least until the kid is eighteen. She's viewed as a hero, with only a few people knowing what's she's really done. Margo, the most sympathetic main character, has to live with the knowledge that her twin brother is married to Amy, and likely will be forever, and there's nothing she can do to help him. Basically the only consolation is that, with Nick being aware of what she is and always having an eye on her, it's unlikely Amy will ever be able to pull something like this again. And his very last words to her in the novel do genuinely get under her skin, meaning that he knows how to adequately fuck with her. Apparently, once he knows the rules to the game, Nick is just as good at it as she is.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "Gone Girl" in that Amy is psychically missing and that as a person, she is utterly gone.
  • Dumb Blonde: Averted with Amy. As it turns out, she's The Chessmaster behind the whole thing.
  • Dye or Die: To avoid detection after her disappearance, Amy cuts her hair short and dyes it. She also puts on weight and gets fake glasses.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Nick's full name is Lance Nicholas Dunne. He refuses to go by "Lance" because it exacerbates his punchable alpha-male douchebag appearance.
  • Evidence Dungeon: The woodshed behind Margo's house, filled with evidence against Nick.
  • Evil Is Petty: So very petty. While hanging out with Amy (who is masquerading as Lydia/Nancy) at the cabins, Greta says that Amy looks like a "rich, stuck-up bitch" when she is discussed on the Ellen Abbott show. Amy goes and spits in Greta's milk, potato salad and orange juice.
  • Fake Pregnancy: Amy uses her pregnant friend's urine to stage a medical report of her being pregnant to intensify the news coverage on her. When she later reveals to Nick that she used his frozen sperm to get pregnant for real, he accuses her of this. But she's not joking this time.
  • Faking the Dead: Turns out, Amy had staged the "disappearance", correctly predicting people would suspect Nick of murdering her.
  • False Rape Accusation: A favorite trope of Amy's. She did it once with a former boyfriend of hers and again with Desi post mortem, faking physical evidence for both to boot.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Amy comes off as downright charming at first, but it's all an act. She's rotten at her core, but often comes off as composed and maintains that she's doing what's necessary.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Amy's framing of Hilary Handy, for extremely petty things like, "Forgetting [I'm] allergic to strawberries," and so on.
  • Female Misogynist: Go, to a small extent. She doesn't seem to hate women, but she definitely considers herself to be one of the dudes, and makes a conscious effort to avoid "feminine" things like displaying her emotions in public. Nick blames their incredibly misogynistic father and the way he raised them for having this effect on her.
    • Amy looks down on most people, but has special scorn for women who she perceives to be emotional and irrational, constantly demanding dancing monkey behavior from their partners and their "choose me" attitudes. She also dislikes "Cool Girls" who become whatever their partners want, all the more so because Amy herself has been the Cool Girl.
  • Femme Fatale: Amy is fully capable of using her sex appeal to befuddle men, and also kill them when the need arises.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Nick gives his sister the game Mastermind for her birthday.
    • Nick admits, "I'm a big fan of the lie by omission." A couple chapters later, we find out he conveniently didn't tell us he was cheating on Amy.
    • Early on, Nick outright asks the police if they think it's possible Amy's disappearance is "some sort of runaway wife situation."
  • Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Amy is the cynic, Margo is the realist, Desi is a very twisted optimist, Tanner is the apathetic, and Nick is the conflicted.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: A textbook ensemble, to the point the tragedy seems almost inevitable given the temperament of the players. Amy (choleric), Nick (phlegmatic), Margo (melancholic), Tanner (sanguine), Desi (eclectic).
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Not only was Amy playing the cops like a fiddle, she was playing the reader, too. The moments when she's talking directly to the audience in her narration are also quite creepy.
  • Frameup: Amy is very good at this, which Nick and Desi, as well as her former boyfriend, can attest to.
  • Freudian Excuse: Growing up from a young age being compared to a fictionalized, absolutely perfect version of you that your parents created and profited immensely from does not a well-adjusted person make. In addition, Amy could tell since she was a child that her mother idolized the numerous unborn daughters that she lost to miscarriages, and that Amy would never be able to measure up to children who her mother saw as angels, even noting that her parents had low expectations for her from birth, which is why they named her Amy, hoping that someone so average would be overlooked by God to take away. The Parental Neglect ovetones are present, and although they never neglected her physically, you can tell that their lack of warmth towards her didn't give her a good start in life.
  • From New York to Nowhere: Very much Played for Drama. After Amy and Nick lost their respective jobs in New York, Nick convinces Amy to relocate to his childhood home of Carthage, Missouri, so that he can care for his sick mother. While he's well-liked and socially at ease there, the urbane Amy suffers, and comes to deeply resent him for the move. It's a major motivator for everything that follows.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: When Go is irritated with Nick, she upbraids him not with his full name, but his hated real first name, Lance.
  • Gambit Roulette: Amy's plan relies on the precise movements and deductions made by other people after she's left; if the police were a little more or a little less competent, everything might have gone differently. Also, even if it wasn't totally indispensable to the plan, she sure enjoyed being the center of the news media, which any number of things could have usurped completely.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Sort of. Detective Gilpin is somewhat hostile towards Nick while Detective Boney is sympathetic; but in this instance, this reflects their true feelings on the matter.
  • Gunman with Three Names: Nick knows the public is turning against him when his full name "Lance Nicholas Dunne" is all over the media.
  • Happily Married:
    • The movie initially presents Amy and Nick as happy couple with lots of affection and lots of sex. Then Amy's perfectionism and disdain, along with Nick's adultery and laziness, tear that apart. They ultimately come to realize that as strained as their marriage is, they're both awful people who are made for each other, and that if they left each other they would never be as "happy" as they would be together, so they stay..
    • Amy's parents are very happily married... and their relationship is so perfect that it caused Amy to feel extreme pressure her whole life to be a perfect child and led her to become The Sociopath she is today.
    • Tanner Bolt and his wife are also very happy together, full of affection and working well as a team.
  • Happiness Realized Too Late: Despite their marriage having deteriorated into the Masochism Tango, both Nick and Amy realize separately that many of things they came to resent about each other (for Amy, Nick's inattention, and for Nick, Amy's impossibly high standards) were also things they loved about each other that turned them into better people - for Amy, Nick allowed her to relax, and Amy pushed Nick to be the best version of himself and provided him with an intellectual challenge.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: Nick reacts violently to Amy's insistence that they remain married, but feels responsible for the child and realizing that, despite her behavior, he wouldn't be satisfied with any other woman besides her. As time goes on, Nick finds himself feeling more and more at ease being around Amy, the way he did when they first fell in love.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Nick's father dislikes women so intensely that, in his creeping senility, his vocabulary has almost entirely boiled down to chanting the word "bitch."
  • Henpecked Husband: For a period of time after Amy's return, Nick is essentially this to Amy, being forced to act like the perfect husband because of the media spotlight. While she's pregnant, Amy says that he's waited on her hand and foot, but this is probably because he's immensely committed to their unborn child.
  • Her Code Name Was "Mary Sue": When Amy was a child, her parents wrote a series of children's books called Amazing Amy, supposedly based on her, but book Amy was a shining paragon of kindness, perseverance, and being flawless in every way, and whenever real Amy failed at something, book Amy excelled at it.
  • Hollywood Homely: Nick considers Go to be this In-Universe, pointing out that she's not ugly, but also isn't considered beautiful by society's current standards. He describes her face as "strange faced" with a broad jaw, pretty nose, and "dark globe eyes" that may have been suitable for 1930s screwball comedy leading ladies rather than received well by a modern standard of beauty that favors "pixie-princesses".
  • Hollywood Pudgy: A rare example of this being invoked in a non-visual medium. Amy gains weight (subtly) to disguise herself when she goes into hiding. It gets invoked in that, even after she's lost most of the weight, Desi remains completely fixated on getting her back to being very thin again.
  • Hypocrite: Amy smugly claims that the reason criminals get caught is that they're too impatient, and she's fool-proofed her plan by being patient with the planning stages. Once the plan is in effect, however, she loses her patience and takes steps to speed things along.
    • Desi constantly bemoans how terrible Nick's treatment of Amy is. Amy quickly figures out that his treatment (while he would never cheat on her) is actually much worse.
  • I Am Not My Father: Nick's worst nightmare is turning out to be like his abusive father. When his twin finds out that he's a liar and a cheat, she says this nightmare has come true.
  • If It Bleeds, It Leads: Amy's seemingly brutal murder, combined with her history of being the mascot of a beloved children's book series, has the media totally engrossed in her story.
  • I Just Want to Be You: Amy's childhood friend Hilary was obsessed with her and planned to kill her and take over her life. At least, that's what Amy wanted everybody to think.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: Amy deliberately invokes this trope to create the media frenzy surrounding her disappearance.
    I knew the key to big-time coverage, round-the-clock, frantic, bloodlust never-ending Ellen Abbott coverage, would be the pregnancy. Amazing Amy is tempting as it is; Amazing Amy knocked up is irresistible. Americans like what is easy, and it's easy to like pregnant women; they're like ducklings or bunnies or dogs.
  • Incest Subtext:
    • In the book, there's something extremely off about the relationship between Desi and Jacqueline: as a teen, Desi obsessively dates girls who look like younger versions of his mother, and they still live together once Desi is edging into middle age and his three brothers have long since moved out. There's also the fact that when Desi complains that no-one sends love letters any more, Jacqueline asks if her son saved hers, to which he replies "of course". Now it could be that she's talking about her love letters to Desi's father, but what with the vague wording and all the other hints of the Collings' constantly sexual vibe and odd attachment to one another, it doesn't necessarily come across that way.
    • Discussed, Averted and (in the movie) Exploited with Nick and Go. As male-female twins who were one another's lifelong best friends, they had to contend with rumors of Brother–Sister Incest in high school; Nick makes a semi-humorous point of stating for the record that he and his sister have never had sex, or thought about having sex, or done anything other than like each other a lot in a completely sibling-appropriate way. In the movie it becomes more of a plot point, when media speculation of an incestuous affair between the two is used to smear them when they are both implicated in Amy's disappearance.
  • Incriminating Indifference: Nick has a major problem with this. Just as Amy knew he would.
  • It's All About Me: Amy has little regard for anybody other than herself. She reacts with outrage when people begin to feel pity for Andie, because Amy hates her, therefore everyone should.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: At the end of the book, Amy tells Nick that as much as he might hate her, he'll never be satisfied with a "nice Midwestern girl." After all, Amy loved him so much she launched an elaborate revenge scheme when she found out he was cheating on her, and then killed to get back to him. Nick later admits that she's right - who can follow in Amy's footsteps?
  • Karma Houdini:
    • After framing her husband for murder and covertly waging a campaign to ruin his life, then murdering her lover and framing him for rape and kidnapping, Amy gets off completely; Nick was planning on exposing her, but decides against it after learning she's pregnant with their child.
    • Greta and Jeff get away with stealing Amy's money. They are never found, let alone prosecuted.
  • Keeping the Enemy Close: Nick deciding to stay married to Amy in order to be there for his son and keep tabs on Amy for as long as they both live. Margo, his twin, puts another spin on it: Nick finds Amy more thrilling than any other woman could be. He just wants an excuse to stay.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Amy at one point says Desi thinks of himself as this. This is why she calls him after she was robbed, so he can come running to the rescue and take her away to his castle, though this turns out to be more obsessive and controlling than she expected out of him.
  • The Lad-ette: Margo, the tough, beer-drinking bartender, is generally devoid of traditionally feminine attributes. The famous "Cool Girl" passage deconstructs this trope as often a male fantasy - basically a boorish guy masquerading in an effortlessly gorgeous female body - that women are way too eager to conform to so as to catch a man's interest.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Yes, Amy did get away scot free, but for the thirty days of her plan she had gone down the shitter. She gets beaten up by common thugs, have her money stolen, and was forced to live in an old friend's house, only to find that he's potentially crazier than her. The only reason she got away scot free was because she's forced to turn the situation around.
  • Love Forgives All but Lust: Downplayed. Amy is a sociopath, but in her mind, she accepted moving from New York to rural Missouri, Nick losing his job, her parents draining her trust fund, and Nick buying the Bar with her money...until he cheated on her with Andi. That was when she started plotting to frame him for her murder. However, she didn't so much as "forgive" him for the rest but put up with it.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Amy and Nick having sex at the local library.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Amy was this at the start of her and Nick's relationship. We discover that Amy was trying out being the "Cool Girl", which she regards as a vapid male fantasy that she holds in bitter contempt. The "Cool Girl" speech is an angry takedown of this trope; a "The Reason You Suck" Speech about women changing themselves to fit the ideal of the "Cool Girl" who tries to be "one of the guys" and adopts her boyfriend or husband's interests in order to please him. The speech is also somewhat ironic, as she condemns women who appear to be happy while remembering her earlier time with Nick differently than it appears on-screen. This is justified with Amy being a sociopath.
  • Manipulative Bastard: While nowhere near as effective as Amy, Nick has many shades of this. It's mostly due to his desperation to be regarded as a good person, which leads to him concealing things that don't fit his own narrative.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Amy, and how! First she faked her death and framed her husband for her murder because he'd dragged her to the Midwest, neglected her as a husband, and cheated on her. Then she convinced an ex-boyfriend of hers, Desi, that she was on the run and desperately needed him, got him vulnerable, murdered him, went back to Nick and framed her Desi as a rapist. The worst part is she gets off scot-free at the end.
  • Meaningful Name: Nick Dunne: the word "Done" is brought up several times with regards to Nick, for instance in the page quote above: "what have we done to each other?"
    • Averted for Amy (at least in-universe). Her parents lost seven baby girls before Amy was born, and all of the girls were named Hope. They didn't think that the eighth would live at all, so they just picked a common name, hoping that maybe God wouldn't notice her and let her live. If they had known she would live, they would have named her Lydia.
  • Meet Cute: Amy tells a sweet story about meeting Nick at a party and clicking right away with clever banter, and culminating in a sugar-storm kiss.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: Invoked. The media assumes, and we are led to believe, that Nick killed Amy. Then we learn that Amy, being the real manipulative sociopath, knew the trope so well that she exploited everyone's expectations about her case to frame Nick.
  • Momma's Boy: With an abusive father like his, it's no surprise Nick preferred his mother.
  • The Movie Buff: Nick is a former movie and TV critic, refers to himself as a "film geek," and bonds with another guy over The Godfather.
  • Moving Angst:
    • Amy really doesn't want to move from New York City to Nick's hometown in Missouri but she has little choice when her parents drain her trust fund, they both lose their jobs, and Nick's mother Maureen is diagnosed with cancer. Although her diary is a work of fiction, Amy is genuinely unhappy in Missouri and even more so when she learns that Nick is cheating on her with Andi, who he teaches at college.
    • Nick isn't overly happy in going home to Missouri either, especially since his hometown has become deeply depressed following the Great Recession and he keeps running into people he knows from his past. However, his is downplayed because he does manage to open the Bar and is very close to Go.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • When asked if the story is based on any real life case, the author said it's not made up of any one case, and specifically points out the disappearance of Laci Peterson as one of those cases that can be considered a model. The similarities aren't difficult to point out:
      • The victim being seen as a kind, pregnant housewife while the husband is a philandering man who is hated by the public after his mistress reveals herself is an obvious parallel. With Amy planning on committing suicide and her body being found in the ocean and the fact the pregnancy is a lie, it would be easy to believe that Amy is inspired In-Universe by this case.
    • As a former prosecutor, "victim's rights" advocate and generally anti-defendant commentator with a religious-sounding surname, Ellen Abbott has clear echoes of Nancy Grace. In the film, she's even played by Missi Pyle, who had already played another Expy of Nancy Grace on The Mentalist.
    • Nick's defense lawyer Tanner Bolt (in the film version) is an unmistakable parody of Johnnie Cochran, right down to his trademark glasses and fast-talking demeanor.
  • Not the First Victim: After Nick figures out that Amy has faked her own murder to frame him, he finds out that she's done something similar twice before: that she framed her "best friend" in high school for stalking her and throwing her down the stairs, and that she framed an old boyfriend for rape. None of them are murder, but both characters note they recognized Amy's pattern of behavior.
  • Obsessed Are the Listmakers: Amy notes that Nick always made fun of her nonstop listmaking. She adds that the joke is on him—it's that very comprehensiveness that makes her elaborate scheme to screw him over possible.
  • Oh, Crap!: When Nick opens the shed.
    Back to the far back of the yard, on the edge of the treeline, there was the shed.
    I opened the door.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: First defied, then played straight. Nick holds off on hiring a lawyer because he's worried that it'll look bad for him; he turns out to be right. Then he winds up hiring a lawyer known for defending extremely guilty dirtbags.
  • Orgy of Evidence: Boney becomes suspicious, not just because of the amount of evidence against Nick, but by the fact that every piece seems to be carefully laid out to lead to the next, starting with an envelope literally labelled "CLUE", and ending with a diary that was incinerated, but miraculously remained almost completely legible.
  • Out with a Bang: Desi has his throat slashed by Amy after he orgasms while having sex with her.
  • Papa Wolf: Exploited - when Amy reveals she's pregnant with Nick's child, Nick notes he would do anything for his unborn son, and that includes staying married to Amy so he doesn't turn into the awful father he had as a child.
  • Parental Neglect: Amy's stories about her childhood have shades of this, and although her parents didn't neglect her physically, you can tell that they poured their love and attention into book Amy instead of their flesh and blood daughter. Her sociopathy had to have come from somewhere.
  • Pet the Dog: On Amy's "to do" list she sets up to frame Nick, she takes the time to say a final goodbye to Bleecker, their cat.
  • Popularity Cycle:
    • Amy's friendships are characterized by this. She'll be obsessed with someone (even platonically), until she grows annoyed by them not indulging her narcissism. At this point, she'll frame them for any crime between stalking to kidnapping and rape to punish them and cause them to be despised by those around them.
    • Nick himself is not immune. His and Amy's marriage may have been an Awful Wedded Life, but once he gets an actual chance to be with Andie — who he has regarded as his source of happiness — after Amy's disappearance, Amy suddenly compares much more favorably to Andie.
  • Pride Before a Fall: Amy's diary spends most of its time explaining what a brilliant life and marriage she and Nick had, but in the present day, we already know they moved back to Missouri, which Amy, especially, dislikes, and leads to the unravelling of their marriage.
  • Purely Aesthetic Glasses: Amy wears them as part of her disguise, however she can't fool Greta with it.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Nick reaches his after Amy's return and subsequent "The Reason You Suck" Speech, almost strangling her to death. He stops himself.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Amy gives one to Nick after she returns and he threatens her with a divorce.
    • Rather unexpectedly, Andie gives one to Nick when he dumps her.
    • The "Cool Girl monologue" is also one to the aforementioned trope, but also towards the men who created it to cater to their shallow fantasies and also towards the women who pretend to be happy incarnating it just so a man may pick them over another "uncool" woman.
  • Refuge in Audacity: All of Amy's plans run on this. The plans aren't subtle and her victims understand perfectly well what she's done. However, Amy spends so much more time and effort on the plans than any reasonable person would that the affected people can't explain what happened without sounding crazy for accusing Amy of being willing to do the things that she actually did.
  • The Reveal: Amy faked her abduction, disguised herself, and framed her husband for murder in order to get revenge against him for mistreating and cheating on her.
  • Rich Bitch: Amy, as soon as she first steps on Missouri. Girl don't like Dixie and it shows.
  • Sanity Slippage: Amy goes mad over a period of years. The pressures of trying to live up to her parents' impossible expectations, trying to disguise herself as a normal person her whole life, trying to be a good wife to a shitty husband, and ultimately having to remake her plan on the fly takes a toll on her.
  • Self-Defense Ruse: Amy falsely claims that Desi kidnapped and raped her and that she stabbed him with a steak knife after it fell into her hands by accident. However, several people guess that this is not the case and point out the obvious flaws in Amy's story, while Amy herself has gone to meticulous and cold-blooded planning to make it look this way, such as repeatedly penetrating herself with a wine bottle to give herself convincing injuries.
  • Slashed Throat: The ultimate fate of Desi.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Way, way over on the cynical end.
  • Slut-Shaming: Amy refers to Andie as "the little whore" repeatedly in her narration.
  • Smug Snake: Amy clearly thinks of herself as the one thinking person in a world of morons, but she's not quite as smart as she thinks she is. Her prep work was flawless, but her plans quickly start fraying at the edges. She turns out to have misjudged how expensive living on the run is. She opens up a little too much to someone she considers a fellow woman mistreated by men, only to have said woman beat and rob her with the help of her new boyfriend. Then she contacts a man she considers an easily manipulated idiot who'll be putty in her hands because he's got a crush on her, and he turns out to virtually imprison her "for her own good." And then, just to top it off, Nick manages to manipulate her into coming back home, thus nullifying almost everything she set out to accomplish. None of which, of course, does anything to puncture her ego - But in the end, Nick tells her he feels sorry for her because she has to be her all the time, and this is what gets to her.
  • The Sociopath:
  • Spanner in the Works: Amy committed the The Perfect Crime, but then she drops her moneybag in front of Greta and her boyfriend and things go awry.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Desi Collings has followed Amy for 20 years. When he volunteered for the search party, it's easy to assume he would keep her for himself. Which he does, but in a different way than he expected.
  • Starting a New Life: Amy's plans.
  • Stealing from Thieves: Amy views her money as being stolen from her to pay for The Bar, which is how she justifies taking money from Nick to fund her attempt to fake her own death. The money then gets stolen from her by Jeff and Greta, two fellow low lives who figure out that Amy is carrying a lot of money and being pretty naive about it.
  • Stepford Suburbia: Amy considers the town she and Nick move to (and Nick's hometown) this.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: The fifth anniversary gift is supposed to be wood, so when Nick comes to believe that Amy was pregnant when she went missing, he quickly guesses that the clues are leading him to an antique wooden cradle and a pregnancy reveal. This happens to be exactly what Amy's diary claims she's planning—for the benefit of the police who will find the diary. Her true message to Nick is a lot more sinister.
  • Stringing the Hopeless Suitor Along: An extreme version. Amy does this to Desi for years after her marriage to Nick, although without Nick's knowledge. She did this simply because she always has a backup plan to the backup plan, but doesn't realise how much Desi, far from being the perfect suitor, has in fact come to resent her for using this on him.
  • Suburban Gothic: Amy and Nick were forced to move from New York City to the suburbs of Missouri when Nick's mother got sick. Much of the narrative focuses on how their formerly-happy marriage became troubled and downright cruel over the course of five years, culminating in Amy's disappearance on their anniversary, and the subsequent murder investigation.
  • Symbolic Serene Submersion: Amy imagines herself this way while fantasizing about Nick killing her:
    I've actually felt sad for myself, picturing my slim, naked, pale body, floating just beneath the current, a colony of snails attached to one bare leg, my hair trailing like seaweed until I reach the ocean and drift down down down to the bottom, my waterlogged flesh peeling off in soft streaks, me slowly disappearing into the current like a watercolor until just the bones are left. But I'm a romantic. In real life, if Nick had killed me, I think he would have just rolled my body into a trash bag and driven me to one of the landfills in the sixty-mile radius.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Nick and Andie, hence why the media dubs the former "cheating teacher".
  • Trashy True Crime: Ellen Abbott (an unflattering Expy of Nancy Grace) runs a TV talk show that's dedicated to tales of women being abused, kidnapped, and (most likely) killed. She lambasts Nick repeatedly on her show (a pre-existing bias before any of the damning evidence turns up). Amy notes that Ellen completely sanctifies the women she discusses, and prefers pregnant women and wives - generally white and middle- or upper-class for that reason.
  • Twin Telepathy: Nick and his twin sister are close enough, and similar enough, that Nick describes them as able to read each other's minds. This stops when the events of the book drive a wedge between them.
  • Undying Loyalty: Margo is the one person who is constantly at Nick's side (even if at some points even she suspects Nick might have murdered Amy). By the end their relationship is strained (because she can't bear Nick actually staying with Amy for the foreseeable future) but she says that she's still with him
Margo: I still love you. But this breaks my heart.
  • The Un-Favourite:
    • Go jokes she was this to her parents, as they weren't expecting to have twins. Given their father's attitude towards women, there may be some truth in it.
    • Amy. For her whole childhood she was forced to compete for her parent's affection with the 'Amazing Amy' character they based around her, who succeeded at everything Amy failed at, and was a paragon of kindness, perseverance, and virtue. Not to mention the fact that she was conceived after her mother had seven miscarriages and almost worshipped them all as angels, devoting one day a year to just sit alone and think about them. She laments the fact that it's impossible to live up to the dead unborn children who came before her, because they're perfect, and notes that her parents had low expectations for her since birth; they named her Amy, hoping that someone with a name so boring would go unnoticed by whatever cosmic force took away the first seven girls.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Nick keeps leaving significant gaps in his narrative. Then we discover that Amy's diary is mostly either fabricated or enhanced.
  • Villain Decay: It's implied by the ending. Amy has a plan to frame Nick for poisoning her if he doesn't behave but he torpedoes it very early. Now that he's watching her, it's quite likely Amy will never be able to get away with one of her schemes again. In short, she's lost her major advantage, which was always surprise.
  • Villainous Lineage: Nick's greatest fear is ending up like his father, a rabid misogynist. When you look at his cheating with Andie and lack of commitment and empathy towards Amy as a husband, it's not an unfounded fear. Especially if you believe Amy when she writes in her diary that Nick once violently pushed her to the ground.
  • Walking Spoiler: It's hard to discuss Amy without revealing she's a sociopath.
  • Wanting Is Better Than Having: Nick admits that he loses interest in Andie almost immediately when Tanner tells him he has to end it. He's never been more obsessed with Amy than when she is no longer around and he can project whatever he wants onto her.
  • Wham Line: Part Two's opening chapter opens with one to end them all. "I'm so much happier now that I'm dead." Suddenly, the entire narrative, the entire story you thought you were reading, is turned on its head.
  • Woman Scorned:
    • Amy's Evil Plan was forged because Nick mistreated and cheated on her.
    • Andie turns on Nick when he announces at a vigil that he still loves his wife.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: A favorite tactic of Amy. She's willing to go the extra mile to make it work, to rubbing her wrists raw on rope to leave ligature marks and using a wine bottle to induce vaginal tearing on at least two separate occasions to frame someone for rape. She also is mentioned to have cracked her own ribs in her teens when framing Hilary.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Jeff has no problems assisting his girlfriend Greta when they rob Amy. Also, Nick nearly kills Amy for what she did to him, but stops himself at the last minute. It's also an invoked trope.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: All over the place between Nick and Amy. Nick interprets himself as the heroic suitor to Amy's Uptown Girl, and therefore assumes he'll have public sympathy, unaware of how well Amy has made him look like her Lower-Class Lout Domestic Abuser. Amy also gets this played on her when she makes the mistake of assuming that Desi is a straight example of the Knight In Shining Armour, when he's in fact a devious manipulator and obsessive Stalker with a Crush that is delighted to have Amy where he wants her after many years.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: When Amy gets robbed whilst on the run by Greta and Jeff, she changes her plans accordingly by calling Desi, whom she was in friendly contact with for years before her disappearance and even after she accused him of being a Stalker with a Crush, to help. She then manipulates Desi into thinking Nick was abusive and he invites Amy to stay at his place. When Amy realizes that she is not in control of the situation anymore, she begins violating herself with a wine bottle and tying her wrists and ankles with ropes to frame Desi for kidnapping and raping her. Love or hate Amy, that's impressive.
  • Zero-Approval Gambit:
    • Amy successfully pulls one in the eyes of Team Nick; to everyone else, she's a saint.
    • Nick pulls one by sticking with Amy to ensure that their future baby is safe.

"...What will we do?"