Sharp Objects
Gillian Flynn
Contributed by Marshall Raine
Themes are described as ideas that dominate a particular piece of literature. In almost all cases, pieces of literature will be centered a theme or a number of them.
Loss of Innocence

This theme reoccurs throughout the novel. When Marian dies, Camille starts to engage in sexual behavior and cutting herself despite still being a young teenager. She loses her childhood and youth when her sister dies, and never returns to the innocent girl she used to be. As the story progresses, she continues to fall deep into anger and depression, and she acts out in different ways including drinking. Amma’s upbringing also follows this pattern. At a tender age, she begins to look for attention. She starts drinking, smoking, and using her body to get boys attention. Amma is seen flirting with John and the detective. Such behavior is atypical for a thirteen year old. Adora also lost her innocence at a young age. It is revealed that Adora gave birth to Camille when she was seventeen years old. Normally, women do not plan to give birth at such a young age.


Camille harms herself physically and emotionally. Although the world is cruel to her, much of her pain is self-inflicted. She does not understand herself and often does things to please others instead of taking care of herself. When she is thirteen, she gives a boy a blowjob to make him happy. As an adult, she sleeps with the detective to make him satisfied. She also finally drinks her mother's poisonous concoctions, even though she knows they are harmful. Camille seeks help by going to a mental hospital but withholds essential information that would help the doctors treat her condition. As a result, the effort becomes a waste of time and resources.

Adora has an excellent life. She has money, a husband, and children. However, she ruins it with poor decision making. She drives her daughters away. Adora claims that if her daughters do not love her, then she will not love them either. A mother's love is supposed to be unconditional. But she does not seem to understand this. She raises her daughters without care or love, which results in severe psychological damage. Although she did not know how to love, Adora could have at least made some efforts to care for her daughters but she throws away the opportunity for a happy family life through her destructive mothering.

Dysfunctional Families

This is a major theme in the novel. Gillian Flynn shows throughout the book that the abuse and dysfunction caused by one's parents are far-reaching and long ranging. Joya abused Adora, Adora then abused her daughters, killing Marian in the process. The dysfunction stems from a lack of connection and compassion with each other. Adora knows nothing about caring for and showing her children affection, except when they are sick, which is why she poisons them. She gains attention and prestige from society for caring for her sickly children. The dysfunction also affects the children who further manifest the disconnection. Camille starts harming herself as a form of emotional release. Adora and Alan also seem to have a troubled relationship. Adora lies to Alan when Camille comes back home. She tells him that Camille is making her sick through her strange behavior. When he confronts Camille, she affirms him that she has done nothing to Adora. Adora is not capable of loving anyone, even her husband.

Female’s Body Exploitation

This theme also reoccurs throughout the novel. Camille says that women’s bodies are taken advantage of and she considers the traffic they get. Camille remembers that a guy once tried to put a Walkie-Talkie in her vagina. In addition, Camille was raped at a young age by five boys. She also feels used by Richard after sleeping with him. The detective is only interested in Camille because of her relationship with Adora, although he claims to later fall in love with her. Amma also exploits the bodies of the three girls she murders. In the last pages of the book, Amma admits that she only removed the teeth of the girls to use them for her dollhouse.


The theme of jealousy is also dominant in the novel. Camille is jealous of her sister’s smooth and soft skin, which is unlike hers. She envies Amma’s legs and voluptuous breasts. Camille was also jealous of her college roommate who would receive gifts from her mother. She felt bad because her own mother never cared for her. Adora never even said “I love you” to her. She envies the life of her roommate and wishes that she could live like her.

Amma is also jealous when Adora starts to show interest in Ann and Natalie. Her motive to kill the girls is that she does not want to share her mother’s affection with them. She also kills her Chicago friend, Lily, for the same reason. She feels threatened when Camille begins to show interest in Lily.

Mental Illness

Mental illness is the most dominant theme in the novel. Most of the characters appear to be struggling with some form of mentally illness. Camille's behavior throughout the story demonstrates signs of mental instability. She even visits a psychiatric hospital to try and deal with her condition. However, the hospital does not help her. She harms herself every time she suffers emotionally. Even when she does not cut herself, she constantly thinks about it. Camille indulges in drinking to calm her mind and deal with her emotional pain. Lack of parental love seems to be the cause of her mental illness. She submits to men who take advantage of her, but she does not seem to be bothered by this. At the age of thirteen, five boys raped her, but Camille somehow blames herself for what happened. Her mental instability causes her to make irrational decisions. For instance, she gives an older boy a blowjob at Garett Memorial Park so that he can kiss her. She continues to behave this way as an adult. A reasonable person would not make such irrational decisions in life.

Amma is also mentally ill. Camille describes her as a weirdo who exhibits strange behaviors. She lashes out because her dollhouse legs do not match the table in her mother's mansion. At home, she is usually submissive and behaves like a child. However, when she leaves her mother's house, she becomes a bully. She is not bothered by the sight of strapped sows in her mother's farm, something Camille finds repulsive and equates to witnessing a rape. The reader comes to learn that Camille killed Ann, Natalie and Lily because she thought that they were getting more attention than her. She is clearly out of her mind. Amma is also already sexually active at the age of thirteen. She tells Camille that when her mother takes care of her, she likes having sex. She also likes to flirt with older men. Surely, such behavior is not typical to a thirteen year old.

Like her daughters, Adora is also mentally ill. Camille describes her as a cold and unloving mother. Normally, mothers care for their children and cannot stomach the thought of something bad happening to them. Adora is the exact opposite of this. She intentionally harms her daughters, both physically and emotionally. She slowly poisons all her daughters, including Marian who passes away from the poisoning. Adora’s mental illness makes her harm the children.

Trust and Distrust

The theme of trust and distrust reoccurs in the novel as seen through the experiences of Adora, Camille, Richard, and the police. Adora does not trust her husband, Alan. She keeps him in the dark about her problems and often lies to him. Alan, on the other hand, naively believes everything Adora tells him.

Camille does not trust anyone enough to show them her scarred body. She is so carefully about hiding her scars that she has sex with her clothes on. She does not trust that others, even those who show signs of caring for her like the detective, will understand why she cuts herself. She also conceals essential information when she goes to the psychiatric hospital. This implies that she does not trust the physician she finds there.

Richard also doesn’t trust Camille. He does not tell her openly that he suspects Adora to be the killer. After getting to know Camille, Richard ultimately trusts her enough to reveal why he became involved with her in the first place. He tells her the truth and admits to having fallen in love with her.

The police also fail to trust James Capisi, the boy from the poor section of the town. James gives them information that could have helped in solving the murder easily but they ignore him because he comes from a low-income family and his mother is dying. Throughout the story, Frank, Camille’s boss, continues to trust that she will do an excellent job by covering the murder story.


Most of the people in Wind Gap are self-centered. No one seems to care about anybody besides themselves. Adora hurts her daughters to make herself feel better and useful. The nurse describes Adora’s condition as Munchausen by Proxy. Adora also tells her daughters that if they will not love her, then she would not love them in return. This is egocentric. She puts herself first in everything. Meredith is also egocentric. When Camille goes to her house to interview John about Natalie's death, Meredith wants the interview to be about her. When Camille finally publishes the story, Meredith gets upset because the article never included her comments. The detective does not care about Camille's feeling when he befriends her in order to get close to Adora. He only cares about solving the murder case and advancing his career.

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