Study Guide

Gone Girl Manipulation

By Gillian Flynn


I'd know her head anywhere.

And what's inside it. I think of that, too: her mind. Her brain, all those coils, and her thoughts shuttling through those coils like fast, frantic centipedes. Like a child, I picture opening her skull, unspooling her thoughts. (1.2-3)

And that, Shmoopsters, is how you open a novel about a guy married to the Queen of Mind Games. Let's just stop a minute and appreciate how disturbing this image is: Amy is so complex that to completely understand her would require opening up her brain and dismantling it. Dude. That's just nuts.

Marybeth starts the pitch: "We wanted to ask if we could borrow some money from your trust while we figure out what to do with the rest of our lives." (12.37)

Imagine having your parents come over for a visit… to ask you for money. When you and your partner have both lost your jobs. It's not exactly the greatest timing, and the fact that Amy's parents are in control of Amy's money makes the whole encounter even more awkward and manipulative. The control her parents have over her is obvious when Nick tries to interrupt so they can talk the decision over—instead of responding to his request, she gives in to their demands.

I know sometimes you think you are moving through this world alone, unseen, unnoticed. But don't believe that for a second. I have made a study of you. I know what you are going to do before you do it. I know where you've been and I know where you're going. For this anniversary, I've arranged a trip: Follow your beloved river, up up up! (31.25)

In Amy's final treasure hunt note to Nick, she puts into words the manipulative power she's used to build her plot. She's not just a scorned woman, she's a stalker. Studying someone, following him, and investigating his every move are the definition of gathering evidence to control someone.

The mooney, girlish state her notes had left me in, it sickened me. It embarrassed me. Marrow-deep embarrassment, the kind that becomes a part of your DNA, that changes you. After all these years, Amy could still play me. She could write a few notes and get me back completely. (31.38)

Remember on the old Peanuts cartoon when Lucy would invite Charlie Brown to play football, only to jerk it from the ground when he's about to kick it? That's exactly what Amy does as she manipulates Nick's emotions during her disappearance. When she sees Nick give his Sharon Schieber interview, confess his drunken love for her on the Flip Camera, and record daily webcam messages for her on the Internet, she gets the validation of seeing how much control she has over him.

I hope you liked Diary Amy. She was meant to be likable. Meant for someone like you to like her. (32.20)

Whoa. Why is it so freaky when Amy does that fourth wall thing? It's like she's actually reading our minds about her diary alter ego, like she's messing with us just like she's messing with Nick and everyone else. Weird…

"Amy clearly isn't a puppet on a string. She's the puppet master." (31.50)

While Amy's gift of the Punch and Judy puppets carries a lot more symbolism than the obvious puppetry metaphor, the illustration still clearly depicts the way Amy manipulates those around her. For more on puppetry, check out the "Symbols" section. Also check out this classic music video and witness how Gone Girl totally changes its meaning.

I knew I needed a pliant friend for my plan, someone I could load up with awful stories about Nick, someone who would become overly attached to me, someone who'd be easy to manipulate, who wouldn't think too hard about anything I said because she felt privileged to hear it. (36.4)

Amy's manipulation of her neighbor, Noelle, shows just how far she'll go to use people for her own purposes. She fills Noelle up with stories about Nick that probably never happened, leads her to believe they're best friends, and even plots to steal her pee so she can fake her pregnancy. Not exactly the definition of best friend, is it? Next time you get ready to declare someone your best friend and she invites you over for a lemonade binge when the toilet just happens to be broken, it might be time to bolt.

Nick has shown more interest in me these past ten days than he has in the past few years. I've always wanted a man to get in a fight over me—a brutal, bloody fight. Nick going to interrogate Desi, that's a nice start. (44.50)

Check this out: Amy's so narcissistic that she wants to see Nick and Desi duke it out over her. This is clear evidence that one of the reasons Amy manipulates people is to draw attention to herself and gratify her own ego.

I look at Desi with outright disgust now […] I'd forgotten about him. The manipulation, the purring persuasion, the delicate bullying. A man who finds guilt erotic. And if he doesn't get his way, he'll pull his little levers and set his punishment in motion. (50.15)

Manipulation tactics aren't just the domain of chicks in this story—Desi's also pretty good at it. Think about how he just happens to have painted a room in his guesthouse Amy's favorite color and installed a greenhouse full of tulips. She goes to him initially because she thinks she can control him, but he's got her beat. This reminder of the kind of guy he was they were in high school is what triggers her desire to restrict her plot to include his murder.

One day I will wear him down, I will catch him off guard, and he will love the energy for the nightly battle, and he will get into bed with me. In the middle of the night, I'll turn to face him and press myself against him. I'll hold myself to him like a climbing, coiling vine until I have invaded every part of him and made him mine. (58.18)

Amy initially returns home expecting that the Nick she saw on the webcam and Sharon Schieber—the guy pleading with her to come back, promising to be the best hubby ever—is the Nick she's going to get. When she realizes that he actually hates her guts (with good reason), she begins yet another plot to control him, this time in person. By getting pregnant at the end of the book, she knows she's got Nick for good. The goal she sets out in this passage is accomplished.

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