A deep, dark thread of misogyny—dislike of, contempt for, or prejudice against women—runs through the pages of Gone Girl the way the Mississippi river winds through Nick’s hometown of Carthage, Missouri. It is inseparable from the thoughts and actions of many of the characters, and it defines the relationships—romantic, familial, platonic—throughout the novel. However, it is not only the men in the story who are guilty of being biased against or even outright hateful of womankind—Gillian Flynn’s female characters, too, often engage in self-hating or self-defeating thoughts and actions. As Flynn unfolds the twisting plot of her novel, she ultimately argues that misogyny is so deeply ingrained in American society that its casual cruelty and poisonous rhetoric are inescapable parts of daily life—for women as well as for men.
A simpler, less interesting book might try to position its female characters as powerless victims of misogyny as a way of pointing out the pain of a life lived in a society which alternately infantilizes and demonizes women. However, Gillian Flynn chooses to use the psychotic but brilliant villainess at the heart of the novel, Amy Elliott Dunne, to show how the misogyny that is sutured into the bones of American society seeps into the women living within it—and the effects of such psychological confusion can be disastrous. Amy Elliott Dunne is a paradox of a character. A wealthy, beautiful Manhattanite, she is acutely aware of her charms and wiles, but insists that she hasn’t fallen into the trap of femininity. In her falsified diary entries, she writes about promising her new husband, Nick, that she’ll never nag him for spending a night out with his guy friends or spending too much money; she laughs behind closed doors and on the page at women with husbands who act like “dancing monkeys” and bend to their wives’ every request. Amy seems to want to hold herself apart from other women, or declare that she’s better than them—her self-hatred and the internalized misogyny she feels, it seems, make the traditional hallmarks of womanhood and the roles women often wind up playing odious to her. Even once Amy is revealed to have invented her “diary-self” as a work of fiction, the true Amy is no less of a misogynist—she picks out women she believes are dull or stupid and plays them like fiddles, worming her way into their lives and manipulating them for her own gain. She callously lambasts the “Cool Girl” image she constructed for herself while calling out all the other women who play into such roles and allow men to dictate who they’ll become, how they’ll act, and what they’ll like. She also plays into gender stereotypes. While hiding out in the Ozarks, she refuses to believe that her neighbor Greta was the one to come up with the plan to rob her, instead pinning the crime on a man—even though Amy herself is an accomplished criminal mastermind, which should be proof enough for her that women are capable of such things. Amy is ultimately a mess of contradictions: a woman who loathes other women, a narcissist who hates herself on a level she can’t comprehend, and an individual who seeks to play into the tropes of femininity for her own gain while remaining blind to the possibility that other women all around her—just as affected or disaffected by misogyny as she is—are doing exactly the same thing.
Nick Dunne, too, is a misogynist deep in his heart. Having been raised by a cruel, callous father who emotionally and, it’s suggested, physically abused his wife, Nick has seen firsthand the painful fruits of misogyny in action. Nick’s father, Bill, an Alzheimer’s patient trapped inside a nursing home, frequently escapes the facility and roams around town muttering one word over and over again: “bitch.” Nick has vowed all his life never to allow himself to become of his father, and in adulthood outright loathes the man—but as the novel progresses, Nick is forced to admit that he has, in spite of his best efforts, been seduced by how easy it is to blame all of the problems of his life on the women within it. As Nick falls apart under the pressure of the investigation into Amy’s disappearance—a crime he’s heavily suspected of perpetrating, despite his insistence upon his innocence—he rails, always in the privacy of his own mind, against the women he feels are persecuting him. He detests Detective Boney, Amy, his mistress Andie, female news anchors such as Ellen Abbott who decimate his public image, and even lashes out verbally at all kinds of women at varying levels of closeness and intimacy, from call-center representatives to his twin sister and confidante, Go. Nick may not be a murderer—but just because he’s not a criminal doesn’t mean he doesn’t harbor many of the misogynist fantasies and cruel, looping thoughts that drive many men to acts of outrageous violence against women.
Gone Girl offers no easy answers—Nick hates Amy with a passion, but the novel posits that this hatred is justified. Indeed, Amy is hateable—she is pompous, vain, and cruel, and her inner monologue is a steady stream of vitriol directed not only at the “dancing monkey” men surrounding her at every turn but also the dull, idiotic, needy women she fears becoming. Flynn implicitly asks her readers whether Nick’s hatred of his wife is justified—if hating a woman because she’s hateable or fearing her because she’s dangerous is prejudice or plain common sense. In a society ruled by a ubiquitous undercurrent of deep-seated misogyny, she argues, it’s difficult—sometimes even impossible—to distinguish between an ingrained, learned hatred of women and a personal vendetta.
Misogyny Quotes in Gone Girl
“Don’t let [Amy] worry you.” Go lit a cigarette. She smoked exactly one a day. “Women are crazy.” Go didn’t consider herself part of the general category of women, a word she used derisively.
I am fat with love! Husky with ardor! Morbidly obese with devotion! A happy, busy bumblebee of marital enthusiasm. I positively hum around him, fussing and fixing. I have become a strange thing. I have become a wife. I find myself steering the ship of conversations—bulkily, unnaturally—just so I can say his name aloud. I have become a wife, I have become a bore, I have been asked to forfeit my Independent Young Feminist card. I don’t care. I balance his checkbook, I trim his hair.
I felt a surge of angst. What a fucking day. Boney was out to get me, Noelle was insane, Shawna was pissed, Hilary was resentful, the woman at the security company was a bitch, and my wife had stumped me finally. It was time to end this goddamn day.
Amy was blooming large in my mind. She was gone, and yet she was more present than anyone else. I’d fallen in love with Amy because I was the ultimate Nick with her. Loving her made me superhuman, it made me feel alive. […] Amy made me believe I was exceptional, that I was up to her level if play. That was both our making and undoing. Because I couldn’t handle the demands of greatness. […] I turned her into the brittle, prickly thing she became. I had pretended to be one kind of man and revealed myself to be quite another.
That night at the Brooklyn party, I was playing the girl who was in style, the girl a man like Nick wants: the Cool Girl. Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, l don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
Men actually think this girl exists.
[Amy] knew she’d punish me good. Now at our final stop, Amy was ready for me to know how clever she was. Because the woodshed was packed with about every gizmo and gadget that I swore to Boney and Gilpin I hadn’t bought with the credit cards I swore I didn’t know anything about. The insanely expensive golf clubs were here, the watches and game consoles, the designer clothes, they were all sitting here, in wait, on my sister’s property. Where it looked like I’d stored them until my wife was dead and I could have a little fun.
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.”
“My wife, she just happens to be the coolest girl I’ve ever met. How many guys can say that? I married the coolest girl I ever met.”
Youfuckingbitchyoufuckingbitchyoufuckingbitch. Come home so I can kill you.
I spent the rest of my day picturing how I’d kill Amy. It was all I could think of: finding a way to end her. Me smashing in Amy’s busy, busy brain. I had to give Amy her due: I may have been dozing the past few years, but I was fucking wide awake now. I was electric again, like I had been in the early days of our marriage.
I gestured to the twine, the hacked hair, the dried blood. “So, what’s your story, wife?”
“I’m back,” she whimpered. “I made it back to you.” She moved to put her arms around me. I moved away.
“What is your story, Amy?”
“Desi,” she whispered, her lower lip trembling. “Desi Collings took me. It was the morning. Of. Of our anniversary. And the doorbell rang, and I thought... I don’t know, I thought maybe it was flowers from you.”
I flinched. Of course she’d find a way to work in a gripe: that I hardly ever sent her flowers, when her dad had sent her mom flowers each week since they’d been married. That’s 2,444 bouquets of flowers vs. 4.