The Lovely Bones | Study Guide

Alice Sebold

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The Lovely Bones | Chapter 6 | Summary

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Summary

Two weeks before she dies, Susie Salmon is late to school. She sneaks in through the back door to the school's stage, which is kept unlocked. Ray Singh is already there, hiding on the scaffold over the stage, and Susie joins him. The two have had crushes on each other for a long time. They're about to exchange their first kiss when Ruth and two teachers come in through the stage door.

A drawing of a nude that Ruth made in art class has gotten her into trouble: she added breasts to her drawing of a wooden model. After exacting a promise that she will never make "unnecessary additions" again, the teachers leave and Ruth starts to cry. Susie climbs down from the scaffold and the girls exchange a few awkward sentences. When Ruth pulls out her sketchbook, Susie can see that she's amazingly talented.

After Susie dies, she visits the cornfield each morning. There, Ruth arrives early to hang out; the field is a good place to skip classes, and Ruth senses Susie's presence there.

One morning, Ray Singh is waiting for Ruth in the cornfield. Both he and she are shy and lonely; both feel a strong connection to Susie, and they can talk to each other easily. They begin meeting at the cornfield regularly and become friends.

Mr. Salmon pays an ill-advised visit to Ray Singh's house to see if he knows anything about Mr. Harvey. Ray's mother, Ruana, receives him coldly—she's still angry that Ray was a suspect—but advises him to kill Mr. Harvey if he's sure he's the culprit.

While Mr. Salmon is at the Singhs' house, Len Fenerman stops by the Salmons' house. He and Mrs. Salmon make idle conversation while they wait for Mr. Salmon's return. One thing Len mentions is that his wife died soon after their marriage. He doesn't mention that it was a suicide.

Analysis

As with many people who feel like outsiders, Ray Singh and Ruth take refuge in disdain. Ray says of his English teacher, "that bitch has nothing to teach me." True, Ray has seen a lot of Royal Shakespeare productions, but that doesn't mean his English class is worthless. When Ruth's teachers demand that she stop making "problem" drawings, Ruth answers, "Leonardo da Vinci drew cadavers." That's also true, and so is the fact that Ruth is a better artist than her teacher. Still, comparing herself to one of the greatest artists in history isn't going to get Ruth what she wants.

Ray and Ruth imagine forming a secret club with "the other oddballs" in their grade. Still, it's clear from the descriptions of these students that they have more serious social problems than Ray and Ruth. One is a boy who constantly talks about formaldehyde; another is so shy he wears his gym shorts over his jeans; and one is a girl who sleeps in the pine needles "behind the junior high's regulating plant." By contrast, Ray wants to be a doctor and Ruth wants to be a poet, and it's clear that both their dreams are well within reach. In many ways, they're already successful—but eighth-grade standards of success are different from adults'.

When she writes about talented people who feel like outsiders, Alice Sebold draws on memories of her own youth. Her parents scorned her first friend's parents as being low-class. As a teenager, Sebold felt that her neighborhood was "a wasteland" with "nothing for miles around." She and her friends "wanted to be stars because as stars, you got out." At one point in her autobiography, Lucky, she describes herself as "loud, weird, and obsolete" in high school. The cutest couple in school laughed at her friends.

Ray and Ruth personify Sebold's own sense of what she was like as a child. They're insecure, yet they're also quite judgmental. They're bright and talented, but still too young to value those traits.

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