Amy’s five-year-anniversary gift to Nick is a pair of wooden puppets made to look like Punch and Judy, stock characters from puppet theater. As the novel unfolds, the puppets come to symbolize the violence and decay in Nick and Amy’s marriage as well as the nature of their relationship itself from the very beginning. The five-year anniversary is traditionally the “wood” anniversary, and though as Nick has been solving Amy’s labyrinth, traditional treasure hunt with the expectation that he’ll find an antique wooden cradle at the end (since, in the wake of Amy’s disappearance, evidence has emerged to suggests that she was or is pregnant), the present Amy has selected for him is far more sinister. The Punch and Judy show is a notoriously violent puppet routine passed down through oral tradition—in one popular iteration of the action, Punch kills Judy and her baby. The Punch and Judy puppets Amy selects for Nick’s gift are antique and grotesque—the Judy puppet has a tiny baby puppet attached to her belly on a string and is suspiciously missing the large wooden handle which animates the puppet.
As Nick and Go inspect the puppets together after finding them in Go’s woodshed—along with a mountain of expensive and ridiculous purchases Amy has been making on credit cards in Nick’s name—she wonders whether Judy’s lack of a handle is symbolic of Judy’s femaleness. She suggests that Amy has left the present to show Nick that he is nothing more than a puppet on a string—Amy is behind the scenes, manipulating everything from afar, while Nick helplessly watches the evidence of his “murder” of his wife mount around him. Nick and Amy have been acting according to scripts, playing roles they believe the other will like—Amy has been masquerading as a hip, laid-back “Cool Girl” while Nick has tried to smother his average, Midwestern roots and his family’s history of violence and misogyny. Nick and Amy have turned themselves and one another into puppets—and the gift of Punch and Judy shows that Amy is ready at last to reckon with the full measure of what she and Nick have done to one another over the years, and make him pay for the ways in which he’s altered the course of her life and her very being.
The Punch and Judy Puppets Quotes in Gone Girl
I looked at the puppets. “So she’s giving me the narrative of my frame-up.”
“I can’t even wrap my brain around this. Fucking psycho.”
“Yeah, right: You didn’t want her to be pregnant, you got angry and killed her and the unborn baby.”
“Feels anticlimactic somehow,” I said.
“The climax is when you are taught the lesson that Punch never learns, and you are caught and charged with murder.”
“And Missouri has the death penalty,” I said. “Fun game.”