Haunting the Body
An Exploration of Scars as Ghosts
In this paper, I examine Gillian Flynn’s novel “Sharp Objects,” along with the HBO miniseries adaptation, and how they raise important questions about representations of trauma and portrayals of self harm in entertainment. I argue that the protagonist’s self harm scars act as ghosts, because both scars and hauntings are physical manifestations of psychological trauma, and both are messengers from the past. Historically and socioculturally, women are associated with self violence and the supernatural, both of which are prevalent themes in the “Sharp Objects” novel and television show. This paper also examines the important distinction between read and watched trauma, as well as the validity of these creative interpretations of self harm in terms of psychological research and personal testimonies. Applying psychological theories and horror constructs to the narratives, I assert that Flynn and director Jean-Marc Vallée present self harm as a haunting to exploit the association of scars and ghosts with the uncanny, and to attract readers and viewers with dramatic content. Ultimately, I prompt readers to consider their own reactions to and emotions surrounding self harm, and ask that consumers of entertainment practice empathy when considering self harm.