Idealization of Marital Roles
Take a moment to contemplate your identity as an individual and decide if you are an autonomous or ideal member of society… Good… Now reimagine yourself as a psychopath.
Amy’s identity for the first few years of her marriage is based solely on what she thinks her husband wants he to be but not who she actually is. Both Amy and Nick idealize their relationship based on social standards and disregard their true selves in favor of maintaining a front for their families and Midwestern town. Idealization and autonomy are in conflict with one another and become major themes and meld into one another.
As a psychopath Amy is adept at crafting her behavior for individual situations including within her marriage; her self-idealization as “cool girl” becomes a reflection of her intense rejection toward “dancing monkey” husbands. She believes her marriage is different because she doesn’t make her husband do things for her or come home at a certain time. “Real Amy” needs the same reassurances from Nick in order to remind herself that her marriage is different than her prior relationships that didn’t work out or ended in stalking.
Reader learn her diary entries are premeditated and it becomes apparent that she rejects autonomy long before Nick realizes he no longer loves her and has “no right to be sentimental” (148) about his relationship. Losing her job as a quiz maker leaves Amy to be the cooking, cleaning housewife she claims to hate. In reality the requirement for her to embrace “ideal wife” characteristics pushes her further away from her relationship and closer to killing herself; all the free time in the world allows for finalization of details in the plot against Nick.
Nick is a special kind of douchebag and also falls victim to the rejection of autonomy. His entire sense of self as a man is based around an idealization that he has failed to be faithful to his wife and is therefore the scum of all husbands. Failing to care about anything even after his wife goes missing even though he has dreams the woman he is supposed to love (with one “o”) is bleeding out on the kitchen floor. When police find evidence of Amy’s B positive blood on the kitchen floor he finally asks his young mistress to leave. Compulsive lying or telling part-truths to everyone until he can no longer run from his problems and is discovered cheating on Amy by his sister. At the point when society (GO) recognizes a behavior (cheating) as not cohesive with the standards everyone lives by, the autonomous individual immediately changes outward actions to re-conform with the standards in place.
Source: agirlnamedcourtney on tumblr
Through the rejection of autonomy by both parties, Amy and Nick’s true feelings become increasingly mixed with their idealized selves until the “Real” selves begin to take over narration. Cool Amy presents her relationship in her diary as one of romance where she and Nick kiss in clouds of sugar and eat lobster every year as a tradition. This tradition becomes an idealization in and of itself when Nick rejects lobster in favor of friends he doesn’t like and the sex lacking in his perfect marriage.
Recognizing Nick’s lies but ignoring the problems and possibility of divorce move Amy’s narration closer to her true self. She notes her participation in controlling behaviors such as tracking how her husband acts towards her (169) and then immediately turns around and reflects on how perfect her marriage is just two pages later. On page 205 Amy in diary form recognizes “[my husband] might kill [her]” and immediately changes her mind to decide that once Andie is out of the picture “[they’ll] all be happy” including potential children that do not yet exist and probably should not ever be conceived.
When Nick obtains representation from a lawyer he must face his own innocence and fight against claims that he is responsible for his wife’s death. Meanwhile, the perfect housewife is still plotting to frame her husband for her murder in a state with the death penalty. It is Amy’s goal to get her husband to notice her and feel for her but Nick has no feelings and efforts from both parties are futile. Once the Cool girl’s idealized soul is dead she finally decides to “kill” herself. Real Amy hides away from everyone who loves her in order to protest what is left of her autonomy and in the process also removes herself from everyone who has hurt her; she can still hurt Nick through past actions without being physically present.
Both Nick and Amy morph their Real and idealized selves until neither is distinguishable from the other. As the story continues it can be predicted that Real identities will dominate more and more behaviors until readers and the police get a clearer picture of the goings on in the Dunne home. Until then we can all imagine a world with no ideals in which autonomous couples can openly plot to murder each other.