Sharp Objects

by

Gillian Flynn

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Sharp Objects: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning, Camille joins Alan and Adora at the breakfast table, and they call for their housekeeper, Gayla, to bring Camille some breakfast. Camille only wants coffee, but Adora insists she eat. Alan and Adora apologize to Camille for Amma’s outburst the night before. Camille replies that the tantrum was “scary” to behold, and Adora retorts that Camille herself was not “placid” at that age. Camille isn’t sure whether Adora is referring to her cutting, her crying jags over Marian’s death, or the “overactive sex life” she’d embarked on, but she simply nods.
Now that Camille has revealed the truth about her scars, other painful truths about Camille’s past come to light: as a child, she was reckless, promiscuous, and overemotional, and has sought to bury these things through self-harm, alcohol abuse, and a rejection of both her femininity and sexuality over the years.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Amma comes downstairs and apologizes rather overzealously to Camille for her tantrum. She explains that she’s just “going through a stage” before turning to Adora and asking if Adora will love Camille more than her now that Camille is back. Adora quietly answers “no.” Gayla brings Amma a plate of ham, and Amma pours honey on it before shoving mouthfuls of it into her face. She blithely states that she wishes she herself would be murdered—“when you die,” she explains, “you become perfect.” Adora reminds Amma that she is beloved by her family and popular in school, and warns her not to get “greedy.”
The Amma who comes downstairs this morning is nothing like the violent, crazed Amma who threw a tantrum last night—still, there is something deeply macabre about the way Amma views and interprets the world around her. She clearly longs for attention, affection, and adoration, and plainly states that she would do anything—even die—to get it.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Amma swishes around in her dress and explains that she has fashioned for herself a maiden cloak—she is going into the forest later with her friends to play Joan of Arc. Adora forbids Amma from going into the forest, and Amma stabs at her ham. Adora pointedly asks Camille how much longer she’s planning on staying, but offers to come visit Chicago sometime later in the year. Camille remarks that all three of them would love the museums at the lake, but Adora fatalistically replies that after Ann’s death in the creek, she can’t enjoy “any kind of water anymore.” Adora explains that she knew, and was fond of, both girls. Amma stands up with a little shriek and runs upstairs.
Amma leaves the breakfast table after she perceives two slights against her: first, Adora pays no attention to her carefully-constructed costume, and then Adora verbally laments the death of both Ann and Natalie. This shows that when attention is focused on anything other than Amma herself, Amma is psychologically unable to cope with what she perceives as Adora’s inattention or outright rejection.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Camille asks Adora just how she knew the little girls, but Adora deflects her questions, accusing Camille of “attack[ing]” her rather than comforting her, and quickly leaves the room. Camille reflects on how dramatic Adora is, and how personally the woman takes “every tragedy that happens in the world.” After Marian died, Adora didn’t come out of her luxurious, ivory-tiled bedroom for a year—and she forbid Camille from ever coming inside.
Any time Camille attempts to bring the truth—any truth, whether it’s related to Ann and Natalie, to Marian, or to her own life—within the confines of Adora’s house, Adora abandons her. This demonstrates Adora’s aversion to the truth, which rubs up against Camille’s fierce dedication to capturing it.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
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Up in her room, Camille—with only two days left before Curry’s deadline—tries to assemble what she has learned so far. The two murders, though undoubtedly committed by the same person, don’t seem to make sense. She wonders why Natalie was taken in broad daylight, and whether James Capisi could have invented an image of an old woman after glimpsing a feminine-looking man in the woods. Camille muses that “women [don’t] kill this way.”
Even Camille, who has rejected traditional modes of femininity, has a hard time believing that a woman could really be responsible for the violent killings of Ann and Natalie.
Themes
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Frustrated by her inability to make sense of any of the clues and loose threads she’s encountered, Camille decides to head out and find Richard Willis, hoping that his rational outsider’s way of thinking about the murders will help calm her own mind.
Unable to get at the truth herself, Camille seeks out the only other person in town whose job it is to pick through the secrets and lies and bring the truth to light.
Themes
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Camille finds Richard at a diner, eating waffles and perusing a high stack of folders. He explains that he’s conducting a criminal history of Wind Gap, examining significant crimes and murders from its past. Camille begs him for some help—on the record or off—in getting a sense of objectivity about Ann and Natalie’s murders. Richard proposes a deal: he will help Camille—and give her an official comment she can use on the record here and there—if she will use her insider knowledge of Wind Gap’s secrets and lies in order to fill in the town’s backstories for him.
Richard knows that Camille, as a Wind Gap native who has rejected the town, is a valuable asset to the investigation. Richard’s help is similarly valuable to Camille, and so they join forces in pursuit of the truth—though they still don’t know each other well, and aren’t sure how much they trust one another.
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Even though it’s not “the straightest of deals,” Camille accepts and asks Richard—on the record—whether he really believes Ann and Natalie’s murders were committed by an outsider. Richard answers that his investigation has “not ruled anyone out.” Off-the-record, however, Richard and Camille both concur that the murders don’t seem like outsider crimes. Camille asks Richard if he has any “real suspects,” and in response, he asks to take her for a drink later that week so that she can “spill everything […] about everyone in Wind Gap.”
Camille and Richard, at the very beginning of their deal, are already on a slippery slope. Though they’ve entered an agreement to be transparent with one another, it’s clear they’re still hiding things.
Themes
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Camille reflects on her own personal history in Wind Gap—a place she feels little allegiance to. She was born out of wedlock—her father was “some boy from Kentucky” who impregnated Adora when she was just seventeen. Camille’s grandparents “grew angry twin tumors” at the news of Adora’s pregnancy, and died within a year of Camille’s birth. Alan, the son of Adora’s parents’ friends in Tennessee, began wooing Adora when Camille was still an infant, and they were married before Camille could talk. Though Camille was publicly considered Alan’s child, she feels no personal connection to him—she sees him as being “as smooth and shallow as glass.” Camille never took Alan’s last name, and she believes that Adora actually prefers for Camille and Alan to feel like strangers—she wants “all relationships in the house to run through her.”
As Camille looks back on her fractured past, it becomes evident just how much of her life has been in service to, and controlled by, Adora. Adora has not done anything, ever, to make Camille feel more wanted, more comfortable, or more in control of her own circumstances—as a result, Camille feels like a “stranger” in her own house, and devoid of any agency whatsoever as long as she’s home in Wind Gap.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Alan fathered Camille’s sister Marian when Camille was just a few years old, and Marian was a sick baby from infancy, often enduring regular trips to the emergency room twenty-five miles away. Marian was on feeding tubes for most of her childhood, and when Marian finally died, Camille was “grateful in a way”—she felt that the frail Marian was not quite ready for the world. Adora, meanwhile, has turned her grief, over the years, into a “hobby.”
It makes sense that Camille has never fully recovered from Marian’s death—Adora has honed her “hobby” of performative grief over the years, and has spent her life turning herself into a victim, leaving Camille alone to try and pick up the pieces and resolve her own traumas.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Camille decides to drive around town. At the end of Main Street, a makeshift “shrine” to Natalie has cropped up—as Camille passes it, she can see Amma and her three blonde friends “sifting” through the balloons, flowers, and gifts at the foot of the shrine and loading them into Amma’s purse. When Amma sees Camille coming, she and her friends link arms and begin skipping towards her. Camille notices how different Amma seems from the tantrum-throwing “doll” of the previous evening—she is dressed in a miniskirt and a tube top.
The sight of Amma and her friends rifling through the gifts that have been left in memory of Ann and Natalie tells Camille that Amma’s pathological need for attention and adoration runs deep enough that she is willing to steal from and perhaps even harm others—or at least their memories—to get it.
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Amma asks Camille why she’s writing a story about “two dead girls who no one noticed to begin with.” Camille recognizes that Amma is trying to provoke her, but she can’t help feeling raw anyway. Amma wonders out loud if “he” is “killing all the freaks”—when Camille asks who “he” is, Amma replies, “Natalie’s brother.” One of the other girls, Jodes, adds that John Keene has “a little-girl thing.” The girls saunter off, bumping past Camille, who senses in Amma a desperation to prevent the two dead girls from getting more attention than her.
At home, Amma is blithe and wired, if a little odd—outside of Adora’s house, however, she is provocative and deliberately incendiary. She will say or do anything for attention—a warning sign which piques Camille’s interest in the girl.
Themes
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
That night, Camille phones Curry at home and apologizes for not being able to make much headway. Curry tells Camille to persist—but then steers the conversation towards asking Camille if she’s taking care of herself. Camille admits that she feels “wrong.” She tells Curry that Wind Gap “does bad things to [her].” Curry urges her to keep it together, congratulating her on doing a good job so far—but reminds her that if she needs to get out, he will get her out.
This passage makes it clear that Curry knows enough about Camille to understand how hard being home is for her—implying that Curry is one of the only people in Camille’s life with whom she’s shared intimate details from her past. Curry wants to push Camille to be her best, but is careful to remind her not to put herself in a dangerous situation in the meantime.
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