The Intentional Monster
I don’t think it’s worth debating whether or not Amy Elliot Dunne is a monster. She is brilliant, she is deliberate, she is dangerous, and she is undoubtedly a monster. I think the more interesting and more relevant question is whether or not Amy Elliot Dunne is the only monster in Gone Girl. Where are the lines of monstrosity drawn? What makes a human being a monster?
Before this semester began, and before our numerous discussions about the human monster, I believed that human beings are capable of perpetrating monstrosity, that they are capable of being monsters, and Gone Girl has only reinforced that belief; however, it has also influenced me to consider how I classify a human monster. While I won’t be convinced that Amy is not a monster (go ahead, give me your best argument), I am less certain about where other characters, primarily Nick, fall on the scale of monstrosity.
There’s no doubt about it: Nick Dunne is a first class, grade A asshole. He is an apathetic, adulterous liar who is certainly worthy of disdain, but is he a monster? Yeah, he cheated on his wife (jerk…), but it was in attempt to bolster his faltering ego, and misguided as his decision was, it was not done with the intent to cause Amy pain or sadness. Nick may be guilty of narcissism in the first degree, but he’s never killed anyone, nor framed anyone for any [perceived] crime.
Now, I don’t want to sound like I’m rooting for Nick because I’m not. I hate Nick Dunne. I just want to determine whether or not he’s a monster, using Amy as my control. And in the case of Nick Dunne vs. Evil Intention, I find the defendant not guilty of having an affair just to spite his wife.
While I’m convinced that people can be monsters, and that Amy is one, Gone Girl has me wondering about why and how people become monsters. There’s been some discussion in class about whether MonsterAmy is a psychopath or a sociopath and whether her monstrosity is a product of society. Based on my superficial research, I would argue that Amy is a sociopath (exhibiting calculation rather than impulse and tendencies to “appear superficially normal” in relationships rather than an inability to maintain them), and by that token, at least partially influenced by environmental factors.
I’m extremely resistant to the idea that people who suffer from mental illnesses should be considered monsters even if they do monstrous things as a result of their affliction. In some cases, mental illness robs its victims of their ability to make conscious decisions and their self control. In Amy’s case, I’m really not sure whether or not she could have stopped herself once she got started on her plan, but her actions were deliberate, they were calculated, they were executed with great precision, and they belonged to a woman who had a checklist entitled Fuck Nick Dunne.
Not only does Amy know exactly what she is doing and lack any semblance of regret or empathy for the people who have been affected as a result of her disappearance, but she takes an unprecedented amount of pleasure in her parents’ exasperation and Nick’s public humiliation. She writes on the fifth day after her disappearance:
I’m going to hide out long enough to watch Lance Nicholas Dunne become a worldwide pariah, to watch Nick be arrested, tried, marched off to prison, bewildered in an orange jumpsuit and handcuffs. To watch Nick squirm and sweat and swear he is innocent and still be stuck.
Instead of confronting Nick, divorcing him, or even just dragging his name through the mud a bit, Amy painstakingly develops a plan that ensures that Nick will suffer long term. While Nick wants to expose Amy, and even fantasizes about killing her, he lacks the dedication, the longevity of resentment, and the brazen confidence Amy possesses.
Perhaps Nick lacks all the traits that make Amy so lethal because his motives are not as potent as hers. While Amy’s motives throughout her life have hinged on harming and humiliating people while simultaneously elevating herself in the esteem of others, Nick’s motives were much more basic, self-serving, and defensive. Amy acted, arguably unprovoked and out of boredom, and Nick was forced to react.
Ultimately, while Amy is not the only person in Gone Girl to do horrible things (nor is Nick), she is the only character I consider to be a monster. She acted consciously and willingly with deliberately malicious intentions (bitchbitchbitch). Although he was unfaithful and did what he could to expose Amy as a fraud, Nick is not a monster. He’s just a colossal asshole. I suppose Amy’s monstrosity and Nick’s lack thereof lie in their intentions, which may speak even more loudly than their [despicable] actions do.