Sharp Objects

by

Gillian Flynn

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Sharp Objects: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The whole time she’s been in Wind Gap, Camille has had little interest in Amma—but after what she saw at the farm, Camille finds herself fascinated by the girl. Camille is disturbed and intrigued by Amma’s violent streak, and finds that it reminds her of the things she’s heard about Ann and Natalie.
Camille has discovered darker and darker pockets of female behavior the longer she’s been in Wind Gap—especially in its youngest residents.
Themes
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Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Late one afternoon, Camille decides to try approaching the Keenes for more information about Natalie. She needs a quote for her feature, badly—if she doesn’t turn up anything good, Curry will pull her out of Wind Gap. She drives to the Keene house and rings the doorbell—Natalie’s mother answers the door and lets Camille in as soon as Camille says she wants to talk about Natalie. Camille feels guilty for not first identifying herself as a reporter.
Camille has heard and seen violent things about Amma and Ann—and now wants to know the truth about Natalie. She knows that the Keenes don’t like reporters, though, and is wary of what will happen if she identifies herself as such.
Themes
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Camille asks for a glass of water, knowing that a woman is less likely to throw someone out of her house once she’s offered hospitality. Camille can tell that Mrs. Keene is staring at her, trying to figure out who she is—Camille knows that between morticians, priests, police, and mourners, Mrs. Keene has probably met more new people in Wind Gap in the last few days than she has since moving there.
Camille is intentionally trying to deceive Mrs. Keene as she scrounges for a quote that will advance her article.
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When Mrs. Keene returns with Camille’s water, the two make small talk for a few moments before Camille at last introduces herself as a reporter. Mrs. Keene’s pleasant smile fades away, and though Camille begs Mrs. Keene for the chance to ask some questions, Mrs. Keene tells Camille to leave and never return. She tells Camille that she—and all reporters—are disgusting, ugly parasites before leading her to the door and forcing her out.
When Camille reveals the truth, Mrs. Keene responds exactly as Camille thought she would—by spewing hatred and vitriol, and making Camille feel bad and guilty about her work. 
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Standing slightly shocked on Mrs. Keene’s doorstep, Camille barely notices when a girl pulls up alongside the house in a red convertible and calls out to Camille by name. The girl introduces herself as Meredith WheelerJohn Keene’s girlfriend—and says she knows who Camille is, though she was “just a little goofball” when Camille was in high school. Because Camille was popular and beautiful as a teen, it doesn’t surprise her that Meredith knows her. Meredith tells Camille that she’ll be in touch—she’ll find a way to get John to talk to her—and then zips away in her car.
Whereas Mrs. Keene hates the press, the punchy and outgoing Meredith Wheeler seems to love idea of getting a moment in the spotlight—though Camille will soon come to see that Meredith has an agenda other than sharing the truth.
Themes
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That evening, Camille meets with Richard Willis at a restaurant in town. Camille recognizes the waitress as one of her old friends from high school, and there is a brief moment of awkwardness between them. Camille orders a beer, and when their waitress steps away, Richard comments that he can already smell alcohol on Camille’s breath. She denies it and changes the subject, asking Richard what he wants to know about the town of Wind Gap—he replies that he wants to hear about its violence.
Richard is an odd figure—he both wants to go after the truth, and is okay watching it get swept under the rug. He allows Camille to deny her alcoholism, and yet uses her—as uncertain and untrustworthy a source as she may be—to get at the truth of what Wind Gap is like.
Themes
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Every place has its own “particular strain” of violence, Richard explains, and he wants to know whether Wind Gap’s is open or hidden, widespread or personal. Camille is wary of making a “sweeping statement” about the town’s history of violence, but Richard suggests she name a violent incident remembered from childhood. Camille, not thinking, blurts out that she once saw a woman bite a child. As Richard asks her more questions about the incident, the panics and deflects, insisting she barely remembers the moment at all.
Camille agrees to play Richard’s game, but—perhaps because of her intoxication—reveals more than she wanted to, and finds herself on the defensive as she struggles not to implicate Adora in Richard’s history of Wind Gap’s violence.
Themes
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Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Richard asks Camille about the next incident she remembers—she says that when she was in the fifth grade, some boys cornered a girl at recess and made her put a stick inside of herself. Richard is disgusted but fascinated, and asks Camille to name more incidents. She says that once an eighth-grade girl got drunk at a high school party and “four or five guys” from the football team “passed her around” and had sex with her. Camille asks Richard if that “counts” as violence, and Richard is shocked to realize Camille herself doesn’t have the ability to recognize that it does.
As Camille relays these horrible instances of sexual violence perpetrated against young girls, Richard realizes that Camille doesn’t even think these things are all that bad—causing him to wonder what, in Wind Gap, counts as “serious” violence. Camille’s inability to see these events for what they are is perhaps a defense mechanism—as it seems more than likely that they happened to her.
Themes
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Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Richard points out that the pattern of violence against women in Wind Gap might be connected to the attacks. Richard sees the act of teeth-pulling as tantamount to rape—at least in the eyes of the murderer. When Camille asks if their conversation is on the record, Richard warns her that if he sees himself quoted in her next byline, they’ll never speak again—which would be “really bad,” because he likes talking to her. Richard asks Camille if he can take her out for some fun—no “shop talk”—and Camille agrees.
As Richard and Camille together hedge closer to the killer’s potential motivations for maiming Ann and Natalie so terribly, the conversation becomes both increasingly difficult—and increasingly valuable—to both of them.
Themes
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Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Camille and Richard wind up in Garrett Park, swinging on the swingset. Richard mentions that a lot of high school kids party and drink in this park, and says he would’ve liked to know what Camille was like in high school. Camille thinks back on her own high school times in Garrett Park—it was where she gave her first blowjob, not long before her “wild night” at the football party. The story she told Richard about the eighth-grade girl sleeping with “four or five guys” was her story.
In this passage, Camille confirms that at least two—and so probably all three—of the stories she told Richard were about her. Camille has been subjected to an extensive history of violence, but is unable to really allow herself to see the depths of what she’s suffered.
Themes
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Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Richard asks if Camille was close to her mother when she was young, and Camille says she wasn’t. Richard asks if Adora ever hurt her, and Camille chides Richard for asking such a “bizarre” question—though privately she reels through her memories, realizing that though Adora never physically hurt her, Adora has, in a way, given her all of her scars.
When the conversation gets a little too intense and far too personal for Camille, she lashes out—though Richard’s question forces her to admit that she has been subject to violence if not at Adora’s hands, then at least due to her influence.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Camille spots a truck rumbling up. Four girls climb out of it—Amma and her three blonde friends. Amma is sucking flirtatiously on a red lollipop, and as she approaches Richard and Camille, she greets the detective as “Dick.” As Camille studies the provocatively-dressed Amma, she finds herself feeling jealous and wishes the girls would go away.
Camille has been getting closer to Richard and enjoying his company. When Amma shows up, Camille feels threatened—Amma and Camille compete for Adora’s attention, and Camille seems to feel she will have to compete with Amma for Richard’s, too.
Themes
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Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
As Amma begins teasing Richard and Camille about whether or not they’re dating—and whether Richard has heard any of Camille’s juicy stories from “back in the day”—Richard tries to help Camille into his car, away from the girls, but Amma sticks her lollipop into Camille’s hair. Camille grabs Amma’s wrist, and Amma, rather than squirming away, pulls herself in even closer to Camille. Amma taunts Camille, daring her to hurt her—“You could kill me right now,” she says, “and Dick still wouldn’t be able to figure it out.” Camille pushes Amma away from her and stumbles into Richard’s car. 
Amma’s violence and vitriol in this scene is pointed and focused—she wants to make Camille feel humiliated and small. Her rage finds Richard, too, and she indicts his failure to solve the mysteries of her schoolfriends—though the source of her anger on this particular topic is more complex than it seems.
Themes
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon