Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Gillian Flynn

Gillian Flynn was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. The child of professor parents, Flynn was shy as a young girl and retreated into the world of books and writing. After receiving degrees from the University of Kansas and the prestigious Northwestern University, Flynn worked for years as a journalist and television critic, all the while penning her own stories in her spare time. With the publication of her critically acclaimed debut novel, Sharp Objects, in 2006, Flynn established herself as a major voice in the literary world. The themes and ideas she explored in her first book—violence, abuse, secrets and lies, and the false idea of the “innately good” woman—would go on to make her third novel, Gone Girl, a riotous bestseller and a veritable literary phenomenon. The novel sold two million copies in its first year and went on to be translated into forty languages, adapted into a major motion picture, and hailed as one of the most shocking novels in contemporary literature. Flynn currently resides in Chicago with her husband and two children, and has written the screenplay adaptations for both Gone Girl and the ITV series Widows.
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Historical Context of Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects was an oddly prescient title when published in 2006, just a few years before true-crime books, television shows, films, and podcasts surged in popularity and exposed latent American fascinations and anxieties alike about the unknowability—and banality—of everyday evil. Sharp Objects was also situated at the beginning of a larger cultural obsession with media that dissected, in all their gory details, the minutiae of disturbing, confusing real-life crimes. Documentaries like The Staircase, Making a Murderer, and Mommy Dead and Dearest provide audiences with the sense that they’re on the “inside” of an investigation—they’re privy to shocking case details, and are allowed, in many ways, to act as a jury of one. Sharp Objects presents an escalating series of horrors, and through the use of an unstable and unreliable narrator, allows readers to pass judgement not just on the supporting characters and suspects but on Camille herself. The twist ending and morally ambiguous coda then subverts readers’ expectations—just as much true-crime media does—and forces them to reckon with their own prejudices, blind spots, and desires for clear-cut, open-and-shut ends for those who have done wrong.

Other Books Related to Sharp Objects

Sharp Objects is a contemporary literary thriller, but its deeper roots lie in the tradition of Southern Gothic literature. Honed and popularized by writers like Flannery O’Connor, Tennessee Williams, Eudora Welty, and William Faulkner, Southern Gothic fiction is set in the American South and often focuses on the disturbing and grotesque secrets just beneath the surface of Southern gentility. The town of Wind Gap, and the Crellin family more specifically, both serve as microcosms of the entire genre of Southern Gothic literature. Beneath a carefully constructed façade, there is anger, denial, cruelty, sadism, and sickness. Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and Toni Morrison’s Beloved and The Bluest Eye are just a few Southern Gothic novels whose twisted interiors inspired Flynn’s modern update on the genre. Furthermore, Sharp Objects in many ways predicted the resurgence of a major literary trend in the form of unreliable narrators and dark tales of female cruelty, such as Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train and Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies.
Key Facts about Sharp Objects
  • Full Title: Sharp Objects
  • When Written: Early 2000s
  • Where Written: New York City, New York
  • When Published: 2006
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Mystery, thriller
  • Setting: The fictional town of Wind Gap, Missouri
  • Climax: Months after the arrest of Camille Preaker’s mother, Adora Crellin, for the murder of two Wind Gap girls (as well as Camille’s long-deceased younger sister Marian), Camille realizes that it is her teenage sister Amma—whom she has brought to live with her in Chicago—who was responsible for the murders all along.
  • Antagonist: Adora Crellin, Amma Crellin, Alan Crellin
  • Point of View: First-person

Extra Credit for Sharp Objects

As Seen on TV. In 2018, Sharp Objects was adapted into a miniseries by the television network HBO. Starring Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and newcomer Eliza Scanlen and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, the series was praised for its lush, Southern Gothic visual sensibility, powerhouse performances, and unforgettable twist ending.

Real-World Experience. Gillian Flynn, whose novels feature mysteries, twists, and grisly crimes, has credited in interviews and profiles her many years of experience as a freelance journalist with helping her to form the basis for her own work. Not only did Flynn’s own reporting allow her to imbue her own work with a “pulled-from-the-headlines” sensibility, but she actually wrote much of Sharp Objects during her tenure at Entertainment Weekly.