In many novels that depict the story of relationship, a woman meets a man throughout the plot in social institutions such as school, at a party, at the mall, or even online. Soon this couple falls in love, and eventually decides to tie the knot; the legally or formally recognized union of two people as partners in a personal relationship, otherwise known as marriage. The myth of the perfect marriage comes from expectations that society set on couples who are conditioned to expect the ‘happily ever after’ fairytale, whereas many marriages lead to affairs, divorces, and custody battles, resulting in the complete opposite of the fantasy. Marco and Anne Conti from Shari Lapena’s The Couple Next Door, and Nick and Amy Dunn from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl are both prime examples of marriages that fall under the false perceptions of the perfect marriage. In these two novels, it is seen that both female characters, Amy and Anne have caught a glimpse of what a perfect marriage is supposed to look like based on their parents relationship, and would take revenge, or any means necessary to get what they want; the ideal marriage.
There are many roles individuals play in society, to their bosses, parents, friends, siblings, teachers, strangers, and even spouses. Usually the role that is played as a parent, sibling, or spouse is considered a private life. However, roles involving their bosses, friends, teachers, or co-workers are considered public lives. Amy and Anne both come from wealthy families. Amy Dunn’s parents were authors, who Amy’s husband views as an “icon of sorts” (Flynn, 49). Nick goes on to describe the main character of the book as “Amazing Amy”, who Amy never liked, as her character in the book just seemed to be the better version of her in real life, “whenever I screw something up, Amazing Amy does it right,” (Flynn, 319). This may have been the reason why Amy always wants to be perceived as the perfect girl, and lead the perfect life. She always compared herself to ‘Amazing Amy’, in every instance of her life. When she had to move to Missouri, she said “I could hear the tale, how everyone would love telling it: how Amazing Amy, the girl who never did wrong, let herself be dragged, penniless, to the middle of the country, where her husband threw her over for a younger woman. How predictable, how perfectly average.” (Flynn, 315) She was more worried about what people thought of her, than what she thought of herself. The same can be said for Anne Conti, who also cared about what people thought of her. Anne’s mother Alice is a wealthy woman who “comes from old money”. (Lapena, 30) Alice has a lot of say in Anne’s life as she wants the best for her daughter. This is shown when Alice sent her to the finest high school, and university. However, when Alice tried to control her daughters love life, she failed, which resulted Anne to marrying Marco, and the displeasures between Marco and his in-laws. Alice thought Marco “wasn’t good enough” (Lapena, 117) for her daughter nor did she “approve of him” (Lapena, 117). Anne disregarded all conflicts around her family and husband, and focused on what the other mothers would think if she left her baby home alone. Anne also dealt with postpartum depression, which was discovered by the police who found her prescription in the bathroom cabinet, which she defended herself by saying that it is “quite common” and that “lots of mothers get it.” (Lapena, 54) more so to reassure herself that it is okay, and to the detective that it isn’t anything . Both Anne and Amy’s parents are the reason why they both care a lot about others’ opinions and want to be perceived as living ‘perfect lives’. Living up to their parents’ high expectations was very important to both characters as both sets of adults set high bars for them to reach.
The truth of a marriage is shared between man and wife. Not everything leads to happily ever after. Nick and Amy’s marriage was very healthy, until the 2008 recession occurred which resulted with them losing their jobs. Amy’s trust fund was soon wiped by Amy’s parents as they were going through early stages of bankruptcy. As of Nick’s parents, his mother was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer causing them to move back to Nick’s hometown, Missouri. Nick got a job at the local community college as a teacher for a writing class, where he starts having an affair with a student. He admits to having a mistress and she was “pretty young, very young mistress, and her name is Andie,” (Flynn, 193). This is the reason Amy frames Nick for her ‘murder’, which she so amazingly admits, “I’m so much happier now that I’m dead” (Flynn, 295). Marco and Anne’s marriage isn’t perfect either, as they did have a daughter named Cora, which sadly led to Anne’s postpartum depression and causing her to lay off work. As for Marco his business was not doing great, and he approached his father in law Richard for help. Richard refuses, leaving Marco desperate. Eventually, he meets a man who befriends him and gives him the idea of kidnapping his own daughter and getting the ransom money from his in-laws. When Cora is kidnapped nothing goes as planned and Marco worries while he continuously tells himself that “Cora is fine” (Lapena, 142). Fortunately, at the end of the novel, the couple gets their baby back. Every couple has problems in their marriages. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Some couples have it worse than others. Problems can occur with loyalty itself, as it can also be with money problems. In most cases, divorce might not always be the best bet.
Although the truth might have gone out both couples still had an evident public perception that was restored when Amy and Cora came back. Everyone thought Amy and Nick were happy and had mutual feelings of wanting a child but Nick “was a prisoner after all.” (Flynn, 551). Amy used an old sample of Nick’s sperm, which was taken for when they did want a baby, to get pregnant. Nick was under the assumption that Amy threw his sample out, when she had not. When she was robbed and was left penniless, she contacted one of her past boyfriends, Desi. She used him to return home, still sticking to her missing case. She framed Desi for her kidnapping and killed him as an act of self-defense and returned back to her husband. Amy is a very dangerous woman, and will do anything including lying, black mailing, revenge, and even committing murder to get what she wants. She had later confessed to Nick in the shower, just to make sure he wasn’t recording her and told him that the reason she killed Desi was because “he was power” and was “playing her way back into her old life”, she also said that “she murdered him” and “could blame everything on him”(Flynn, 523). In the Couple Next Door, even though Anne and Marco get their baby Cora back, they both agree to work on their marriage as its better for them and their daughter. But readers find out that Anne’s step father, Richard, is behind the kidnapping of her baby Cora. Richard found a vulnerable Marco who was need of money and sent his friend Bruce Neel and to befriend Marco, in order for his plan to work. Richard’s intent was to get the ransom money all for himself, which was going to come from Alice as she has all the money. He wanted to get a divorce from Alice, but he needed her money. Alice knew about the affair her husband was having with another woman, “It wasn’t the first time he’d cheated on her. But this time she knew it was different” (Lapena, 285). Richard was having a very serious affair with Marco and Anne’s neighbor Cynthia. Even when the truth comes out, they always seem to have grown another public perception. It’s evident between the two novels, as it is in real life.
In the Couple Next Door, Marco and Anne’s marriage is threatened by the kidnapping of their child Cora, which was all orchestrated by her step-father Richard. Before the incident, Anne and Marco had a “pattern of not speaking about difficult things.” (Lapena, 186). Everything was not going perfectly between the two from Anne’s postpartum depression and Marco’s business problems. In both novels, there is a revenge aspect involved between Anne and Amy. In Gone Girl, Amy had gotten revenge on Nick for cheating on her and getting in the way of her idea of the perfect marriage. In The Couple Next Door, there was an incident at Anne’s high school St. Mildred’s, but she had no memory of it. Anne was diagnosed with “dissociative disorder” (Lapena, 220). The person disconnects from reality for a brief time. This happened to her at school when she confronted some of her bullies and all she could remember was the aftermath, “being in the girl’s bathroom, the blood on the wall, Susan slumped on the floor as if she were dead, and everyone- Janice, Debbie, the science teacher, and the headmistress looking at her in horror.” (Lapena, 220). After Anne found out about how her step-father Richard plot to get money from her mother Alice, while simultaneously leaving her for Anne’s neighbor Cynthia. She went to confront Cynthia about it. This lead to Cynthia taking too far, and threatening the life of Anne’s child, she would not “let the baby survive” (Lapena, 306) and would have got “Richard just to kill it at the beginning”. This triggered Anne. Readers don’t find out exactly what happened to Cynthia but the book ends by Marco waking up to “red lights flashing, circling around the bedroom walls.” (Lapena, 306) and finding Anne sitting in their living room, “holding a large carving knife in her lap” with “dark splatters of blood on her face and in her hair.” (Lapena, 308)
Marco and Anne Conti, and Nick and Amy Dunn are both examples of marriages that fall under the perception of the “perfect” marriage. In both novels, it is seen that Amy and Anne have grown up with the idea of being in a “perfect” marriage and will get revenge if that does not go their way. They both get revenge, even though Anne’s revenge backfires. Amy succeeds and gets her perfect marriage at the end of the novel. Although there always will be a public perception as well as the truth of a marriage. What happens between a couple will always be the side that matters, no matter what other people think. There is no such thing as a perfect marriage. Not all marriages are the same and will face different obstacles. They must overcome these barriers to fulfill the strength of their relationship.