Sharp Objects

by

Gillian Flynn

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Sharp Objects can help.

Sharp Objects: Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Camille wakes the following morning to an “angry sun.” She dresses and heads downstairs, where Gayla is helping Adora tend her rose garden. Without looking up, Adora calls to Camille and tells her that the two of them are going shopping in town—Adora and Alan are having a party next Saturday, and Adora is sure Camille needs a new dress. Camille tries to bring up Adora’s connection with the Nashes, but Adora deflects and continues pruning imperfect roses with a pair of pliers. When Adora instructs Gayla to throw the spare roses away, Camille offers to take them for her room, but Adora insists that they’re not up to snuff—when Camille presses the issue, Adora pricks her palms on some thorns, and accuses Camille of having caused her to bleed.
This passage shows how Adora—obsessed with perfection, just like Amma—can turn even the simplest disagreement into a personal attack. When Camille wants something that Adora doesn’t approve of, Adora accuses Camille of being intolerable and even inflicting harm upon her—when really, Adora hurt her palms herself, perhaps out of rage at her daughter.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Camille, Amma, and Adora head into town to go dress shopping. When they walk into a store, Adora introduces Camille to the saleswoman as her third daughter. The saleswoman comments on the lack of resemblance between Camille and Adora, and Adora confirms that Camille doesn’t take after her much.
Adora doesn’t want anything to do with Camille—in private, or in public, where she makes certain that nothing about Camille should reflect back on her.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
As the salesgirl swans around the shop collecting dresses for Camille to try on, Camille gets nervous—the dresses are all strapless or otherwise revealing. When the salesgirl asks if Amma is trying anything on, Adora insists that she isn’t ready for “these types of clothes,” and the salesgirl remarks on how grown-up Amma looks.
Camille realizes that Adora is trying to make her feel uncomfortable, as retribution for some perceived wrong—her association with the Nashes, the roses, or something else—or simply to assert her control over her daughter.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Adora trails Camille to the dressing room and perches on a chair just outside. Camille, confronting the strappy dresses inside, knows that Adora is punishing her. As she tries on the dresses, she examines the exposed words on her skin, and calls out to Adora, telling her that none of the dresses will work. As Adora demands to see some of the options, Amma whines, asking why Camille won’t show them any of the dresses. Unable to take it any longer, Camille bursts out of the dressing room, revealing her scars in full to her mother—and to the horrified Amma.
Camille plays along with Adora’s game for a while, but when things reach a breaking point, she decides to take back power in the situation. Adora has attempted to humiliate Camille, but Camille proudly bears her scars to Amma, reasserting her agency and invalidating—at least for a moment—Adora’s power over her.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Get the entire Sharp Objects LitChart as a printable PDF.
Sharp Objects PDF
Back at the house, Camille walks straight into the kitchen. She wants to open up the cutlery drawer and look at her mother’s knives, but when she goes to pull the drawer open, it sticks—Adora has padlocked it. Camille feels her skin growing hot, and decides to go upstairs and call Curry—as she does, though, the doorbell rings, and when she peers through the front door, she sees Meredith Wheeler and John Keene standing outside.
The incident at the dress shop leaves Camille feeling raw, embarrassed, and in pain—even though she was able to take control of the situation, she was still humiliated, and still forced to realize that her mother wants to take control over her life at any cost.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Meredith is dressed in a cheerleading uniform, and speaks in “wheedling tone[s]” as she introduces Camille to John—a beautiful, “almost androgynous” teen with thick black hair and full lips. Camille asks the two to sit in the living room while she fixes tea—before making drinks, however, she runs upstairs to make sure that Adora is in her room.
Camille has to conduct this interview carefully, as Adora has forbidden her from bringing anything related to the investigation into the house.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Camille makes some sweet tea and then sits down with Meredith and John. She tells John that all she wants is to get a fuller picture of Natalie, so that she can better describe her to her paper’s readers. John admits that his mother would flip if she knew he was talking to Camille. Friction with his mother, he says, is the reason he moved into Meredith’s family’s carriage house, much to the dismay of Amma and her friends—one of whom is John’s little sister, Kelsey—who previously used the house as a hangout.
John seems to want to distance himself from his insular family, who have isolated themselves from reporters and attempted to keep details about Natalie under wraps. Camille senses a kindred spirit in John because of how he values the truth and wants to put an end to the secrets and lies surrounding the case.
Themes
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
As Camille begins asking John questions about Natalie, Meredith keeps interrupting to offer her two cents. When John says that Natalie tried to hang out with the local girls but found them “snotty,” Meredith chides him for being rude, as Amma is Camille’s younger sister, but John volunteers that Amma and Natalie were actually friends for a while, and would play together in the woods. The two would come home, he says, “all scraped up and daffy.” The girls had some kind of falling out, and Natalie became friends with James Capisi
The realization that Natalie and Amma were friends ties the three girls together, and perhaps causes Camille to question why Amma isn’t sadder about the deaths of her schoolmates—one of whom was, evidently, her close friend for a period of time.
Themes
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
When Camille asks John about his lack of an alibi—he was out driving around town, he says, on the night Natalie was murdered—she empathizes with his feeling “claustrophobic” in such a small town and needing to “get lost for a little.” Meredith interrupts—she says that John was with her both nights, and is being “noble” to keep Meredith out of trouble. When John asks Meredith to be quiet, she tells him that she wants everyone to know the truth—she doesn’t want the town thinking her boyfriend is a “fucking baby killer.”
John and Meredith have together constructed a series of secrets meant to protect one another—not just from the police’s scrutiny, but from the gossipy and small-minded Wind Gap population’s scrutiny and judgement as well.
Themes
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Switching the subject, Camille asks about Natalie’s violence back in Philadelphia. John admits that Natalie—a little girl with a temper—attacked a classmate up north with scissors. Natalie “ruined” the little girl’s right eye, but doctors were able to save the left one. John tells Camille that, though the incident was violent, Natalie showed remorse about it and saw a therapist for a year after the attack. Still, their family had to move “like criminals” to a new town and start fresh. John begins to cry as he laments that their family came all the way to Wind Gap just to lose Natalie.
The revelation about Natalie’s violent past seems to paint a target on Natalie’s back. She was trouble back in Philadelphia—and was, ostensibly, trouble here in Wind Gap, too.
Themes
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
That night, Camille receives a call from one of her old high school friends, Katie, who invites her out to Angie’s house for a “pity party”—a tradition in which their friend group watches a sad movie, drinks a bunch of wine, cries, and gossips. Camille begrudgingly agrees to go, and within an hour Katie arrives to pick her up.
Camille doesn’t particularly want to attend her friends’ gathering, but considering how tense things are at home, it seems like a preferable alternative to remaining cooped up in the house all night.
Themes
Toxic Mother-Daughter Relationships Theme Icon
At Angie’s house, Camille drinks and watches Beaches with her old friends. When the movie is over, the crying women talk about their children, their jobs, their husbands, and how unhappy they are. All of their concerns are completely alien to Camille, who excuses herself to the kitchen to slice some cheese. One of the other women, Becca, joins Camille in the kitchen, and they commiserate about feeling out of place. 
Camille has rejected the kind of femininity that these women cling to—a weepy, vulnerable, performatively self-pitying kind of femininity. Camille has had to be tough all her life, and that has made her somewhat alien to these women—and them to her.
Themes
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
When Becca and Camille return to the kitchen, the conversation has turned to Ann and Natalie—and how Amma and her friends always picked on both girls. When Camille defensively states that all girls at that age are awful to one another, the others accuse Camille of not being sad enough about the girls’ murders, and Tish, citing the Bible’s edict to “be fruitful and multiply,” speaks up to theorize that “part of your heart can never work if you don’t have kids.”
Camille finds that her onetime friends are trying to invalidate her status not just as a woman, but as a human being, because of the choices she’s made in rejecting traditional modes of femininity and living her life outside the confines of Wind Gap’s small-minded ideals.
Themes
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon
Once Camille arrives home that evening, she feels the desire to cut herself. As she tries to fall asleep, she cannot shut out flashes in her mind: images of Bob Nash, Natalie’s mother, her own younger self crying on the floor of Marian’s bedroom, Natalie stabbing her classmate in the eyes, and lastly of Amma—a “woman-child” with dark desires. Camille weeps, unable to fall asleep.
Camille is overwhelmed by how dark and strange everything in Wind Gap is. She is so disturbed by the collective weight of everything happening there that she breaks down.
Themes
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Camille pulls herself out of her crying jag, trying to focus on thinking about her article. She hears a knock at the door, and Amma whispers her name. Camille lets Amma in, and Amma asks if Camille has been crying because of “her”—meaning Adora. Amma says she’s sorry: she didn’t know that Camille used to hurt herself. Camille accepts her apology. Amma then reveals that she’s brought Camille a “present”—she holds out a joint, and tells Camille that smoking is better than drinking vodka. Camille accepts the joint, and Amma asks to see Camille’s scars once more. Camille tells her she can’t.
Seeing Camille’s scars has clearly affected Amma—she is both fascinated by them and pitying of Camille’s pain. Amma knows more about Camille than Camille has realized and attempts to show off her knowledge of her sister’s drinking problem—perhaps as a way of asserting power over Camille.
Themes
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Secrets, Lies, and Disguises Theme Icon
Amma tells Camille that she can be “nice” sometimes. “When everyone’s asleep and everything’s quiet,” she explains, it’s easier to be kind. She reaches out as if to touch Camille, but then drops her hand and quickly leaves the room.
Amma seems to see being “nice” as too vulnerable—or perhaps too feminine—and rejects the performance of niceness when others can see her.
Themes
Abuse, Victimization, and Control Theme Icon
Rejecting Femininity  Theme Icon