I'm too self-conscious […] I feel myself trying to be charming, and then I realize I'm obviously trying to be charming, and then I try to be even more charming to make up for the fake charm. (2.6)
In case you haven't picked up on it, personality fakery is a gigantic problem for pretty much everyone in this book, with Amy being the worst offender. It's interesting that she identifies "self-consciousness" as one of the roots of her tendency to disguise herself—it implies that she's truly not happy with herself as she is. Given her history with her parents and their passive-aggressive rewriting of her personal life, it's not surprising that she feels like she has to create a new version of herself for every person she meets.
Go is truly the only person in the entire world I am totally myself with. I don't feel the need to explain my actions to her. I don't clarify, I don't doubt, I don't worry. I don't tell her everything, not anymore, but I tell her more than I tell anyone else, by far. (3.4)
It's great to have a friend or sibling you can trust—and it's even better when she's your twin that you have a weird telepathic connection with. Nick proves through his actions throughout the book that he truly doesn't have to perform for Go, and even when he does lie to her (e.g. the Andie Affair), she usually is one step ahead of him and already knows something's amiss. Go always knows the score, which is probably one reason why Nick knows better than to pull one over on her.
It had been an awful fairy tale reverse transformation. Over just a few years, the old Amy, the girl of the big laugh and the easy ways, literally shed herself, a pile of skin and soul on the floor, and out stepped this new, brittle, bitter Amy. My wife was no longer my wife, but a razor-wire knot daring me to unloop her. (7.84)
By her own admission, Amy discovered once they moved to North Carthage that she was tired of playing the role of someone she just wasn't. Here we get Nick's side of the transformation of his vivacious wife into a shell of a human being.
It's a very difficult era in which to be a person, instead of a collection of personality traits selected from an endless Automat of characters.
And if all of us are play-acting, there can be no such thing as a soul mate, because we don't have genuine souls.
It had gotten to the point where it seemed like nothing matters, because I'm not a real person and neither is anyone else.
I would have done anything to feel real again.
We hate to break it to you, Nick, but you actually aren't a real person—you're a character in a book called Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, there's a real sadness to Nick's view of his reality; that life has so drastically changed in his family, career, and marriage that he can no longer feel alive.
Nick's commentary on humanity's "play-acting" though, is also an apt description of the Internet-ridden world that drove him out of magazine writing. Facebook, online dating websites, fake social networking accounts—all of them allow us to make ourselves into whoever we want to be.
Sometimes I feel like Nick has decided on a version of me that doesn't exist. Since we've moved here, I've done girls' nights out and charity walks, I've cooked casseroles for his dad and helped sell tickets for raffles. I tapped the last of my money to give to Nick and Go so they could buy the bar they've always wanted […] I don't know what to do. I'm trying. (16.14)
We'd just like to say here that Shmoop has nothing against casseroles, charity walks, raffles, and girls' nights—they're just not Amy's cup of tea, especially since being forced into a role she doesn't want to play is something she's far too used to. After spending her whole life trying to live up to her fictional alter ego, Amy's now forced to do all kinds of things that just don't interest her, all for the sake of fitting Nick's expectations of what she should be now that they're on his turf.
I wanted to feel like a shiny-cool winner, so I didn't tell my students about my demise. I told them we had a family illness that required my attention here, which was true, yes, I told myself, entirely true, and very heroic. (19.39)
Here goes Nick again, reinventing his circumstances because reality is too painful to deal with. He tells his students that he's moved out to Missouri exclusively to help with a family illness, while managing not to say anything about the status of his job. Not only does this make him feel like a hero, but it also gives him the added bonus of having his classroom of female co-eds look upon him as a hero. Enter Andie. You know the rest.
"When Amy likes you, when she's interested in you, her attention is so warm and reassuring and entirely enveloping. Like a warm bath […] And then she sees your flaws, she realizes you're just another regular person she has to deal with […] So her interest fades, and you stop feeling good, you can feel that old coldness again, like you're naked on the bathroom floor, and all you want is to get back in the bath." (21.78, 80)
Desi's somewhat creepy description of Amy's cycle of gaining and losing interest in relationships says a lot about the frightening world Amy lives in. Amy Land is a place where it's totally acceptable to seduce somebody, then drop them on Desi's proverbial bathroom floor when she's done with them. In short, Amy's view of reality is filled only with thoughts of herself, so she goes around making a lot of messes and expects everyone else to clean up in her wake.
Nick loved a girl who doesn't exist. I was pretending, the way I often did, pretending to have a personality. I can't help it, it's what I've always done: The way some women change fashion regularly, I change personalities. What persona feels good, what's coveted, what's au courant? I think most people do this, they just don't admit it, or else they settle on one persona because they are too lazy or stupid to pull a switch. (30.22)
Apart from the fact that Amy's basically calling people who only have one personality lazy and stupid, she doesn't seem to understand the dangerous effects of her multiple versions of reality on the people she comes in contact with. As always, everything is based on her own feelings and desires, not how her destructive actions affect others. She'd probably be stunned to find out that other people actually have feelings of their own.
Andie looks tiny and harmless. She looks like a babysitter, and not a sexy porn babysitter, but the girl from down the road, the one who actually plays with the kids. I know this is not the real Andie because I have followed her in real life. (44.83)
Just in case you thought Nick and Amy were the only people playing the fake realities game, Andie just joined the party. When she gives her press conference where she comes clean about Nick's affair, Andie obviously takes special care to make herself look as childlike and innocent as possible—which we know not only because Amy lurks on her Facebook but because we've see her interact with Nick. The awkward girl at the microphone is a far cry from the sultry, dirty-mouthed vixen we saw at Go's house.
A year ago today, I was undoing my husband. Now I am almost done reassembling him. (64.3)
This remark, one of Amy's final thoughts before the end of the book, pretty much sums up her view that she—and she alone—is in control of her life, including the emotions and experiences of others. Nick isn't a life partner or a person to lift up and respect. He's a Transformer to play with.