Justice isn’t really about “getting even” or experiencing joy in retaliation, rather it is about righting a wrong that society would agree is morally culpable. Revenge possesses a selfish quality: arrogance, vindication, ruthlessness. Revenge shall not be confused with justice; however, societal standards have allowed these two to become false inverses. As seen in numerous novels, poems and theatrical productions, characters interpret justice as revenge and revenge as justice— so does society.
In her twisted novel Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn portrays the arguments and affairs of a married couple, each seeking reprisal; however, the wife is seeking revenge and the husband is in quest of social justice. Wife Amy Dunn goes missing on the day of her 5th anniversary—the gift of wood. Her husband Nick Dunn comes home to an opened front door and an overturned coffee table. Flynn writes with alternating narrators: Amy and Nick, every other chapter. Amy’s point-of-view is written as a diary entry, allowing Amy’s character to gain sympathy from the reader.
Nick’s point-of-view follows each day that Amy has been missing; his daily routine is much like his normal routine— go to The Bar to see Margo, go home—making Nick look careless. Amy’s disappearance receives mass news coverage because of her parents’ well-known children story Amazing Amy— a fabricated story of Amy’s childhood. Flashbacks show what their marriage used to be: midnight trips to a bakery alley, flour falling like snow, Nick wiping it off of Amy’s lips. And what their marriage had disintegrated to: they both lost their jobs, and moved from New York City to Missouri.
A witness had stated that Amy was trying to buy a gun, that “she even reached a point of thinking she needed a gun”… “the man of my dreams, the father of my child, this man of mine may kill me” (amy diary entry source) . The detective finds evidence that Amy was pregnant, and Nick was blindsided; Amy had created an erroneous pregnancy to get justice on Nick for his affair. For each anniversary, Amy leaves her husband one clue at home, leading him on a scavenger hunt throughout the city until he finds the final clue; moreover, this search is much different than the previous years.
As an act of poetic justice, Amy leads him through every place that he and his mistress had had sex. While the detectives are questioning Nick as a person of interest, Amy vindictively changes the readers point-of-view entering part II of the novel: “I am much happier now that I am dead”. She says to the reader, “Meticulously stage your crime scene with just enough mistakes to raise the specter of doubt. You need to bleed. A lot… A crime scene kind of bleed. You need to clean; poorly, like he would… And leave a little something behind: a fire in July?
And because you’re you, you don’t stop there. You need a diary. ” Amy Dunn has created a fabricated crime scene, a fake diary, a false pregnancy and has filled Nicks sister’s woodshed full of incriminating purchases— because her husband was cheating on her. Is this socially acceptable, or is this an exonerative way of getting back at Nick? “Amazing Amy” is not so amazing when she is missing, changed her appearance and went into hiding just to get vengeance on Nick for his infidelity. The move from New York City to Carthage, MO was in lieu of Nicks mother’s illness.
Amy, the city girl, was not pleased with this decision, which created more distance between her and Nick. Based on the implicating clues left by Amy, the detectives closed in on Nick as a key suspect in their investigation; he begins to feel that (for a lack of better words) justice isn’t being served. Once he realizes that Amy is setting him up, as an act of revenge, he hires a high-profile defense attorney that specializes in defending men that have killed their wives; the media uses this as an attack against Nick.
Taking a downhill turn, Nick’s mistress reveals their affair on a news conference and Nick appears on a talk show to “profess his innocence”. What only Amy knew while the nation watched his interview, when he placed two fingers on his chin, was that he knew what she had done, he knew she was alive, and he knew about the life-insurance-woodshed-set-up. “When I think of my wife, I always think of the back of her head… unspooling her brain, trying to get answers.
The primal questions of a marriage: What are you thinking? Innocence was surrounding Nick when Amy came home covered in dried blood following Nick’s talk show interview. Nick played along with Amy’s game when she arrived, because he “didn’t know who she was anymore”. It was revenge in Nick’s eyes and justice in Amy’s; yet, she played the cards in their relationship. She had to still be Amazing Amy on her “Amazing Return”. Literary justice and revenge have no reserved place in a book of rules— they simply live, grow and invade within the characters.
In Gone Girl, to twisted and vindictive Amy Dunn, her actions were simply an attempt of getting justice for her husbands affair. To innocent and chagrined Nick, Amy’s actions were a ludicrous way of getting revenge for his little fling with Andie. In this case, acts of revenge were brought up by personal phenomenon (Nick’s affair), whereas the views on justice are from impartial and impersonal incidents(Amy’s “spectacularly sneaky” production). Justice in literature is typically about closure, whereas revenge is an endless cycle.
Amy saw her set-up as justice because it would close, yet ironically reveal, what Nick had done. Nick saw Amy’s actions as revenge because she endlessly kept leading him on a hunt—literally. Revenge and justice will vary within each novel, and each character; however, it can be interpreted in an infinite amount of way by the reader. The reader ultimately decides if what the characters are doing is considered revenge or justice: although the author implies their definite opinion, society will believe what they have always believed in— wether moral or not.