Study Guide

Gone Girl

By Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl Introduction

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful woman named Amy, who was practically perfect in every way, just like Mary Poppins. She was the coolest girl around—funny, fabulously wealthy, and feminine, all while still being one of the boys. Amy was the envy of women and the desire of all men. Then one night at a party, she meets her Prince Charming: Nick, a hunky, all-American boy with a winning smile and a cleft chin, who is almost as flawless as she is.

You know what happens next, right? They get married, move into a classy apartment in New York City, and live happily ever after. (Cue the finale music with soaring vocals and animated birds raising a banner that reads NICK AND AMY 4EVER.)

It would be nice if the story ended there—unfortunately though, Gillian Flynn's 2012 novel Gone Girl is no fairy tale. So instead of a happy ending, things go more like this: after five years of mostly phony wedded bliss, Amy goes missing and Nick is the primary suspect in her disappearance. Oops.

This might sound pretty predictable, but we assure you it's anything but. Half the fun of reading Gone Girl is that just when you think these people can't get any more dysfunctional, they do. In spades.

Part thriller, part mystery, part psychological drama, Gone Girl is more than just the story of a marriage gone terribly wrong—it's also a commentary on the media's power and the hysteria that true crime events inspire. It's bad enough that Nick is suspected of a murder he didn't commit, but it's even worse that he has to fight adversaries like Nancy Grace-esque talk show hosts, national media reporters, and network camera crews that descend on his house like locusts.

Think about it: When was the last time you watched Unsolved Mysteries, Deadly Women, or anything about the Manson murders without waiting until a commercial break to go pee? Probably never. And while true crime stories make for great television, the flipside is a sort of perverse—and unrelenting—celebrity for the people at the center of these cases. The media latches on, ratings pour in, and allegiances to truth sometimes fall by the wayside in favor of luring in viewers.

This is certainly true for Nick and Amy. On the surface, theirs looks like a clear-cut case of an unfaithful husband getting his wife out of the way—and the media coverage in the novel buys this hook, line, and sinker. In a society where Facebook and YouTube let us carefully craft our own public image, Gone Girl shows us that people may not always be what they seem—for better and for worse.

What is Gone Girl About and Why Should I Care?

Whether it was the teacher you sucked up to in high school, your tough-to-please boss, or the hot girl or guy you wanted to score a date with, you've probably pretended to be someone you aren't to win another person's approval. We've all done it—changed the way we dress, the music we like, or how we act, all in the name of impressing others. Sooner or later though, sustaining the lie takes its toll on us, and eventually we get tired of playing a role.

Gone Girl might look like a lowbrow mystery you'd purchase in the checkout line at a grocery store, but it's actually got a powerful message about the consequences of changing your identity to suit another person. Nick's lifelong habit of being too eager to please others becomes his downfall, while Amy, on the other hand, spends most of their marriage trying to be the girl she thinks Nick wants, only to realize that making herself over is too exhausting.

Although the story addresses this message from a particularly creepy and disturbing angle, Gone Girl ultimately argues that it's better to be yourself than who you think people want you to be—not doing so can totally suck the joy out of your life. In other words, Gone Girl isn't just a thrilling story about some seriously disturbing people, but also a cautionary tale that practically begs us to be happy with who we are. Otherwise we might end up framing someone for murder and hiding out in a cabin watching their gradual undoing… or something to that effect.

Gone Girl Resources

WEBSITES

Gillian Flynn's Website
Gillian Flynn's official website, with information about Gone Girl and her other novels, Sharp Objects and Dark Places.

New York Times Book Review
The New York Times books section takes a look at Gone Girl.

MOVIE OR TV PRODUCTIONS

Gone Girl on the Silver Screen
The book has been adapted for the big screen, and is directed by Fight Club's David Fincher and stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Check out the film's incredibly creative promotional website.

ARTICLES AND INTERVIEWS

Entertainment Weekly Interview with Gillian Flynn
EW may have laid her off, but Gillian Flynn got the last laugh when she returned to her former magazine to talk about her runaway bestselling novel (pun semi-intended).

Vanity Fair on Gone Girl's new ending
One thing that rocks about adapting your book into a screenplay yourself is that you can totally change the ending—and that's exactly what Gillian Flynn has done. Check out some of Vanity Fair's speculations about where Amy and Nick might end up this time.

Gillian Flynn Interview: The Writing Process
Ever wonder what Gillian Flynn's favorite snacks are for writing? How about what music she listens to as a decompression tool from writing about dark, screwed up characters? You'll find all these goodies and more here.

VIDEO

Gillian Flynn Visits The View
Gillian sits down with Whoopi and the gang to talk about the bestselling Gone Girl.

Gone Girl Film Trailer
A sneak peek at the film adaptation.

AUDIO

Gone Girl Audiobook
Thinking about buying the audiobook for your next car trip? Listen to an excerpt on NPR.

Gillian Flynn on NPR
NPR interviews Gillian Flynn about Gone Girl, her writing process, and true crime as a pop culture phenomenon.

IMAGES

Gone Girl Cartoon
An artist's rendering of a basic book synopsis.

Writer and Producer
Gillian Flynn with Reese Witherspoon, producer of the Gone Girl movie.

Dead or Alive?
A very creepy Entertainment Weekly cover promoting the Gone Girl movie.