The Lovely Bones | Study Guide

Alice Sebold

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Course Hero. "The Lovely Bones Study Guide." March 13, 2017. Accessed August 17, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Lovely-Bones/.

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The Lovely Bones | Chapter 14 | Summary

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Summary

Lindsey cases Mr. Harvey's house for a week before she breaks in, and he knows she's doing it. He's already itching to commit another murder, and Lindsey seems like the perfect victim. As she stalks him, he's mentally stalking her.

Lindsey is training to join the boys' soccer team and hatches a plan that fits in with her training schedule. On November 26—two days before Thanksgiving—she falls back during a run and slips off to Mr. Harvey's property. (She's seen him leave the house a few minutes earlier.) She breaks a basement window and lowers herself into his dark basement. Meanwhile, Susie Salmon is watching, trying with all her strength to guide Lindsey in the right direction.

Lindsey steals through the house with Susie, invisible, right beside her. In Mr. Harvey's bedroom, Lindsey finds a sketchbook. One page has a drawing of a dugout in the cornfield. Lindsey knows that this is the evidence she needs. She tears out the page just as Mr. Harvey realizes that someone's in the house. He charges upstairs. Susie smashes out the screen in his room and climbs out onto the roof. She just manages to escape before Mr. Harvey comes in—but he recognizes her soccer shirt. Battered and bruised, Lindsey runs home and gives the drawing to her father.

In heaven, Susie is shivering with relief after Lindsey's escape. Franny, her counselor in heaven, gives her a folded map and tells her to use it when she feels stronger. Two days later, Susie follows the map to find an olive tree in a field. Women and girls walk toward the tree from all directions. They're Mr. Harvey's other victims.

Analysis

Chapter 14 is the most suspenseful in the book, and the featured characters are at their loneliest. The chapter opens with a description of Mr. Harvey sitting alone in his house and looking out the window, and then moves to a description of Mr. Harvey's going alone to Valley Forge Park, hoping to be caught up in a school tour where he can watch the children. Though his intentions are evil—teachers and tour guides are right to frown at him—there's still pathos in the image of a grown man drifting along with a pack of schoolchildren. Being with the kids "buoys him up"—not, in this case, because they're potential victims but because Mr. Harvey is made happy by the students' eagerness to learn about history. Still, readers know what would happen if Mr. Harvey could get at one of the children.

Lindsey is literally alone as she breaks into Mr. Harvey's house: no one is helping her. But she's also setting herself apart from other people by entering this alien monster's environment. Watching Lindsey from heaven, Susie Salmon is reminded of the title of a paper she wrote about Othello called "The Ostracized: One Man Alone." Lindsey is venturing into the territory of another ostracized, lonely man. (The reference to Othello adds another touch of horror, because the play ends with Othello's murdering his wife.)

The suspense mounts as Lindsey climbs from the basement into the front hall. As Susie says, "The architecture of my murderer's life, the bodies of the girls he'd left behind, began to reveal itself to me now that my sister was in the house."

Susie's description of the murders and their victims is so terrifyingly effective and at the end of the chapter, Susie meets more victims. The rustling wheat, Flora Hernandez twirling, the other girls and women pouring toward the tree. The imagery is lovely, and at least Susie won't feel so lonely now.

About that olive tree: Olive trees are often mentioned in the Bible. In Job 14:7-9, Job is speaking of an olive tree when he says, "At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots shall not fail." Cut down in life, Susie and Mr. Harvey's other victims have been given the chance to "sprout again" in heaven. In James 5:14, James speaks of anointing the sick with olive oil to help them heal.

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