The Lovely Bones | Study Guide

Alice Sebold

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Lovely Bones Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Mar. 2017. Web. 13 Dec. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, March 13). The Lovely Bones Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "The Lovely Bones Study Guide." March 13, 2017. Accessed December 13, 2018.


Course Hero, "The Lovely Bones Study Guide," March 13, 2017, accessed December 13, 2018,

The Lovely Bones | Chapter 15 | Summary



Chapter 15 opens with a description of Mr. George Harvey as a child, spending afternoons with his mother. It's immediately clear that something is wrong with her. What seems to delight her most is shoplifting. The reason that the pair feel "relieved" is that they're away from George's father. They pay for food with money they've made collecting scrap metal and old bottles. When Mrs. Harvey sees that someone suspects her of stealing, she passes along the purloined object for George to hide.

Mrs. Harvey calls George her "little accomplice." One night, she and George are sleeping in the truck when three men appear, clearly bent on raping her. Mrs. Harvey orders George to turn on the ignition at her signal, then pretends she's about to get out of the truck. The men are caught unawares as George turns the key. Mrs. Harvey reverses, then accelerates forward; the truck kills one of the men and flings his body onto the roof.

Terrifying experiences like these have trained Mr. Harvey to act ultra-cautiously. As he watches Lindsey run out of his yard, he forces himself to calm down and methodically to hide all the incriminating evidence in his house. Then he calls the police and reports that his house has been broken into. When the police arrive, Mr. Harvey is so convincing that the police accept his story. He even has a good explanation for the drawing Lindsey took from his bedroom.

While Mr. Harvey prepares to leave town, Mrs. Salmon is hidden away with Len Fenerman, somewhere in the labyrinthine inner workings of the local mall.


Two more characters are paired in this chapter: Mrs. Harvey and Mrs. Salmon.

It's not a "compare and contrast" pairing. George Harvey's mother has a serious mental illness, while Mrs. Salmon has been unhinged by grief. Still, Alice Sebold puts each woman in a nightmarish setting; each is fleeing terrible trauma; and both will abandon their sons.

In Chapter 12, Mrs. Salmon tells Susie Salmon the story of Persephone, who was condemned to spend half of every year in the Underworld. When Len Fenerman leads Mrs. Salmon into what is either the mall's air filtration system or its water pumping plant, he is leading her into a symbolic underworld. Without realizing it, he's mirroring the action of Mr. Harvey when he led Susie into the dugout. Len and Mr. Harvey are also a pair, each leading a female to destruction.

At the same time, it could be said that the women in the chapter are the destroyers. George Harvey's mother certainly mangles his upbringing. Mrs. Salmon lures Len away from his job and even from thinking rationally. Len is on his way to meet Mrs. Salmon when his phone rings. It's Mr. Salmon, calling to tell him about the drawing Lindsey found in Mr. Harvey's house. Len is too besotted by the thought of seeing Mrs. Salmon to bother to pick up. He thus misses another chance to catch Susie's murderer, which should be his priority.

In the chapter's final pairing, Mr. Harvey flees town while Mrs. Salmon is "escaping" with Len. It's no wonder Susie feels that this is the end of the family she's known. All the adults in this chapter have forsaken their responsibilities. Even Grandma Lynn, so helpful the day before, is getting drunk alone in the dining room.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Lovely Bones? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!