When People Don’t Act Like Themselves
This question is part of the GRAB(ook) Club, an online book club open to anyone and everyone. It contains more than a few spoilers for Gone Girl, so read at your own peril. No, really, stop reading this post if you plan on reading Gone Girl.
I’ve already written on how I feel about the infertility and treatment protocol plot points. (For the record, though I’m picking at this book, I really did enjoy it. The writing is brilliant, the characters well-drawn, the pacing perfect.)
But there’s another discrepancy I found while reading the book: Amy didn’t always act like Amy.
I mean, she acted Amy-ish, but she departed from herself in an enormous way, and I don’t have a good explanation for why.
We’re told that she punished Hilary Handy for some pretty mild transgressions. She forgot to wait for her after English (twice). Forgot she was allergic to strawberries (also twice). So Amy plotted to make her look like a stalker and succeeded in the most brilliant way.
Then we’re told that she punished Tommy O’Hara just a few years before Nick and Amy got together. After three months of casual dating, he starts to pull away and see other people. Amy finds out and she pins a rape on him. Again, an intricate plot that is put into effect pretty much instantaneously.
And then she punishes Nick for his affair with Andie. It takes her a year to plot it — the year leading up to their 5-year anniversary. So from year 4 to year 5 of marriage, Amy plots.
Not really acting like Amy.
It’s two-fold: one, Amy is someone who likes immediate gratification. She executes those other plans fairly quickly — in under a month for at least one of them. Maybe two months for the other. And with framing Nick, she is jumping out of her skin to find out what happens after the plan goes into effect. This is not someone who is detached and calm; she is anxious to see him punished. So she waits a year? I mean, yes, obviously waiting a year makes for a more intricate plan, but would Amy — the Amy we know in the book — really wait a year to punish someone? She wouldn’t rush things along a bit? She’d keep sleeping next to him, never goaded to speed things along, every time he comes home smelling like Andie?
Fine, I could see a really good plan that takes a long time to set up being intriguing for Amy. She’s also fenced in by the date of their anniversary if she wants to use that as part of the plan. But we find out that she punishes Hilary for some very small transgressions: not waiting after class. I’m willing to accept that in the high school years that could be a big deal. But with Tommy, she’s an adult. It’s under two years before she meets Nick. She punishes Tommy for going out on a date with another girl after they’ve been casually dating for three months. A huge punishment — rape charges.
But she waits until Nick has an affair, overlooking all the other transgressions that came before that point: being remote, being critical, being thoughtless, being cruel. Not being the man she thinks she deserves. Moving her away from New York without allowing her to be part of the discussion. He pisses her off for years we’re told in the second half of the book.
Why doesn’t she punish him sooner?
Why does she wait for the affair to punish him?
Are we to believe that she loves Nick so much that she’s willing to overlook all those other things that would have pushed her over the edge if it had been another person? If she is a psychopath, would she understand love in the first place?
In this tiny way, she ceases to act like Amy, something humans do all the time. We regularly do things “out of character,” hence why humans are unpredictable. So it wasn’t a deal breaker for me in the book, but I found myself distracted through the second half of the book, wondering why it took her so long to turn on Nick. Why she acted out of character this one time when it came to doling out the punishments.
What did you think? Did that seem out of character to you? Why do you think she waited to punish Nick?