Sharp Objects

by

Gillian Flynn

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Sharp Objects: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The morning of Natalie Keene’s funeral, Adora flits around the house getting ready. As Camille drinks coffee and watches her mother dart from room to room, she wonders at the fact that she has been in Wind Gap for days already and has still seen no sign of her younger sister Amma. Not to mention she’s still failed to get a quote from the Keenes—or permission to attend the funeral as a member of the press. She decides to report from the service anyway.
Both inside and outside of her mother’s house, Camille is participating in—and perpetuating—an atmosphere of secrecy, uncertainty, and deception. The fact that she hasn’t seen her half-sister since she’s been in Wind Gap is intensely odd, and Camille’s own desire to deceive others in order to fulfill her professional obligations is similarly off-kilter.
Themes
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The funeral, held at a local Catholic church, is completely packed. No children are present at the service. Natalie’s mother and father lead the procession, crying quietly as they walk down the aisle towards the front of the church. Natalie’s older brother, a boy of eighteen or nineteen, sobs outright. Camille slips out her notepad and begins taking notes, but Adora swiftly and quietly reprimands her, and she stops writing.
The atmosphere of grief and mourning—but also of fear—at Natalie’s funeral is palpable. It barely seems to affect Camille, however, who puts work first—even though the situation is wildly inappropriate on many levels.
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Natalie’s mother eulogizes her daughter, and then a priest delivers a brief address in which he quotes the Bible verse which reads “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” before urging the mourners not to dwell on revenge, but rather to be good to one another in such a difficult time. Camille ruminates on the macabre intoning of “a tooth for a tooth” when Natalie had all of her teeth pried from her mouth. Outside the church, after the service, Camille sees the blonde girls from the woods hanging out in the parking lot.
Things continue feeling not-quite-right as the funeral service carries on. The priest’s address—one which mentions but then dismisses violence—seems pointed, and meant to disguise an attitude of retribution within one of forgiveness.
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After the funeral, mourners gather at the Keene’s massive stone farmhouse. Camille doesn’t approach the Keenes and announce herself as a reporter—instead, breaking journalistic code, she skulks through the house, gathering material for her article. She runs into a group of her old high school friends who never left Wind Gap—Katie, Angie, Mimi, and Tish. They interrogate Camille about whether she is married and has children before Jackie O’Neele—one of Adora’s oldest friends—swoops in to save Camille from the gossipy group.
Camille seems to want to keep her identity hidden at the post-funeral gathering—but in a small town like Wind Gap, it’s impossible for Camille to outrun her past or remain unnoticed.
Themes
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
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Jackie has clearly just had a facelift, and she is covered in diamond jewelry. She wraps Camille in a hug, but rather than feeling comforted, Camille feels that the day is one uncomfortable reunion after another. Still, Camille reflects on her memories of Jackie, who was always more “at ease” with Camille than Adora herself. Jackie was the one to buy Camille her first box of tampons and advise her, when she was younger, about boys. Jackie reveals that she and Adora are in a fight, but she’s not sure what they’re fighting about—Jackie muses that perhaps she forgot to send Adora a card for some important occasion, or sent Adora a gardener whose services weren’t up to snuff. Jackie tells Camille—somewhat seriously—that Camille should call her up while she’s in town so that the two of them can talk.
As Camille reunites with Jackie, she feels a surge of emotions, old and new. Jackie was more of a mother to her growing up than Adora ever was—but this fact fills Camille with a sense of loss rather than one of warmth and affection for Jackie. When Jackie admits that she and Adora don’t talk anymore—but still seems to want desperately to talk privately with Camille—it becomes clear that perhaps there is something darker or deeper within Jackie’s request.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
That night, after formally calling the Keenes to discuss with them the piece she’s writing, Camille files a short, watered-down article in which the only quotes she’s able to use are either stolen from Mrs. Keene’s eulogy or taken from the “vitriol she spewed” at Camille over the phone when Camille admitted to being a reporter. Nevertheless, after reading her article, Curry orders a larger feature on the Keene and Nash families, and Camille is grateful for the chance to redeem herself.
Camille is sort of flying by the seat of her pants in terms of her reporting in Wind Gap. She is not following journalistic ethics, and is just scraping by on a few reimagined quotes. Nevertheless, when Curry orders more work from her, she is relieved. When she first arrived in Wind Gap, Camille wanted to leave as soon as possible—now, though, she seems invested in having a chance to really turn over a new leaf and tell these girls’ stories truthfully.
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Camille sleeps late on Wednesday, and even as the sounds of a phone ringing downstairs and a maid vacuuming outside Camille’s bedroom door intrude upon her rest, she tries desperately to stay asleep. When she can’t any longer, she gets up to grab a flask of warm vodka from her duffel bag, then gets back into bed and sips from it, longing to be unconscious again.
In spite of her good news about work, Camille remains depressed and desirous of oblivion—she is daunted by the work, and surely the trauma, of what lies ahead.
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After a while, Adora knocks at the door and asks to come in, telling Camille that she has some lotion for her. Camille opens the door and accepts the tube of vitamin E lotion from Adora, noting that Adora believes that “slathering enough on will make [Camille] smooth and flawless again.” Camille is dressed only in a t-shirt, and can feel her mother’s eyes scrutinizing her arms and legs.
This scene shows Adora scrutinizing Camille’s body. Flynn frames it as a more ordinary, stereotypical mother-daughter face-off about body image, but will soon reveal that there is something very unique and disturbing about Camille’s body.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Camille asks if Natalie’s funeral was particularly hard on Adora—the unspoken connection with Marian’s funeral lingers in the air. Camille admits that she, too, still misses Marian, and had a hard time at the funeral, but Adora quickly switches the subject, asking Camille what she’s going to do today. Camille says she’s going to go over to the police station. Adora snaps at Camille and tells her not to say that while she’s staying here—she begs Camille to make up lies and say she’s running errands or seeing friends instead. Adora heads back downstairs, and Camille bathes, drinks another glass of vodka, and dresses.
In both Adora’s reluctance to talk about Marian and her desire to have Camille lie to her rather than reveal the truth of where she’s going, this scene shows just how desperately Adora clings to secrets, lies, and disguises. On the other hand, though Camille is able to face the truth, she must dull the pain of it with alcohol. 
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Out on the porch, Camille finds herself face to face with “a changeling.” She sees a little girl working intently on a huge four-foot dollhouse fashioned to look like an exact replica of Adora’s house. Camille recognizes the little girl as the prettiest of the four blonde girls she’s been seeing around town, and is shocked to realize that she’s been running into her little sister Amma all along.
Camille’s first glimpse of Amma comes nearly a week into her stay in Wind Gap. Camille had pictured Amma as a young girl, not having heard or seen anything about her in years. Confronted with her sister’s blossoming womanhood (and apparently her attempts to hide it), Camille must reassess what she knows of Amma. 
Themes
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Amma greets Camille happily, and when she senses Camille staring at her frilly sundress and matching hat, she sheepishly admits that she is wearing these clothes for Adora—“When I’m home,” she explains, “I’m her little doll.” Camille asks Amma what she is when she’s on her own, and Amma says only that she’s “other things.”
Amma has a dual personality, and seems to be living a double life—she is one thing at home, and something else entirely when out in the world. This contributes to the atmosphere of secrets, lies, and disguises within Adora’s house.
Themes
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Amma turns back to her dollhouse, lamenting that some of the furniture needs reupholstering. She’s waiting, she says, for Adora to take her to the fabric store. Camille compliments Amma on the dollhouse and then heads down the steps towards her car. As she does, she turns back and can see Amma murmuring into Camille’s “room” of the dollhouse, “I hope you enjoy your stay here.”
Amma’s fixation on her dollhouse reflects a compulsive need both to have everything be perfect—and to mirror Adora’s tastes, rituals, and routines.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Camille finds Chief Vickery a few blocks from the police station working on a dented stop sign. He tells her that he has nothing to say to her—he thinks that “a decent person would have quit [their job] before writing about dead children,” and accuses Camille of being an “opportunist.” Camille admits that she doesn’t feel very decent, but asks Vickery to see that some publicity might help get the case solved.
Everyone sees Camille as a parasite—someone who profits off of tragedy. Camille, however, is just trying to get at the truth—her obsession with bringing the truth to light, and with doing so through language, will be further explored as the novel progresses.
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Vickery states that Wind Gap has already asked for help—and in exchange were assigned the hotshot from Kansas City who believes the murderer is “some crazed hitchhiker” when in reality, everyone in town knows that a stranger is not responsible. Camille, feeling the effects of the vodka, knows that Vickery is trying to tell her something big, but she can’t ask her questions fast enough. She attempts to get Vickery to reveal why someone from Wind Gap would kill kids—“off the record.”
Wind Gap is a very small town—with some very big secrets. Vickery can’t give Camille such a big statement on the record, but between the two of them, he can tell her that the murderer, most likely, walks among the citizens of Wind Gap.
Themes
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Vickery tells Camille that Ann and Natalie were both violent girls, and Camille asks if he thinks that someone who didn’t like their behavior was targeting them specifically. Before Vickery can answer, though, a car pulls up beside them—it is the detective from Kansas City. As the men talk, Camille thinks that if they were in Chicago, she would introduce herself without hesitation—in Wind Gap, however, she stands “silent as a schoolgirl,” waiting for Vickery to make the introduction. 
This passage has a lot to say about rejections of femininity. Vickery basically states that Ann and Natalie were both violent, headstrong, unlikable girls—girls who rejected sweet, docile, youthful femininity. Camille, meanwhile, has built her life around rejecting the “silent” and passive femininity forced upon her in her youth—but back in Wind Gap she finds herself reverting to old patterns and minimizing herself for the comfort of those around her.
Themes
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon