Course Hero. "The Lovely Bones Study Guide." Course Hero. 13 Mar. 2017. Web. 18 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Lovely-Bones/>.
Course Hero. (2017, March 13). The Lovely Bones Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 18, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Lovely-Bones/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "The Lovely Bones Study Guide." March 13, 2017. Accessed July 18, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Lovely-Bones/.
Course Hero, "The Lovely Bones Study Guide," March 13, 2017, accessed July 18, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Lovely-Bones/.
Susie Salmon's introduction provides three striking elements. The first is the realization that the novel's narrator is dead. The second is the youth of the narrator; 14 is a young age at which to die. The third is that the narrator's death is violent; she is a murder victim. These elements work together to alert readers to the fact that the plot of this novel will not be bound by traditional notions of time and space or life and death.
These words are how Susie Salmon learns that Mr. Harvey is going to kill her. When he makes it clear that killing Susie represents an act of possession, Mr. Harvey elevates the murder to a level of almost supernatural horror. Mr. Harvey is so far removed from the world of ordinary humanity that even his motivation for murder is beyond normal understanding.
Mr. Salmon tells his daughter Lindsey the news the police brought earlier. Except for DNA evidence, the elbow is the only part of Susie Salmon's body that will ever be found. Mr. Salmon's announcement blends horror with ordinary daily experience as he juxtaposes a homespun image (a dog digging up a bone) with one that's shockingly graphic (the bone is his murdered daughter's elbow). The comparison reiterates the contrast between the seemingly safe suburbs and the presence of a serial killer.
Like a phone call from the jail cell, I brushed by Ruth Connors—wrong number, accidental call.
As Susie Salmon's soul exits her body—rushing to get away from the violence that was just committed—her hand "leaps out" to touch Ruth Connors, who happens to be near the murder site. It's a fateful touch. Thereafter, the two girls will have a special connection, and Ruth will be able to sense murders wherever she goes. At the end of the book, Susie and Ruth temporarily exchange bodies: Susie briefly returns to Earth, and Ruth is given a celebrity's tour of heaven.
No one up in heaven could have made it up; the care a child took with an adult.
Buckley Salmon, Susie's four-year-old brother, has just found his father weeping in Susie's room. At this point, Buckley is unaware that Susie is dead. He knows something terrible has happened, but has neither the emotional understanding nor the actual vocabulary to ask what's wrong. Buckley's compassion for his father may be divine, but it's also heartbreaking. In the normal course of events, the adult would comfort his child. Also, before Buckley can accept his father's hug, he must overpower his own fear: children don't like seeing adults cry. Mr. Salmon "had to ask my brother twice, which he had never had to do before."
Mr. Salmon is a man possessed by guilt. He failed Susie Salmon by not being there when she needed him, and he failed her by teaching her that the world was a safe place. The guilt caused by the anguish of losing a child is something any parent might feel. However, Mr. Salmon feels something even worse than self-accusation. He feels that God is the one making the accusation and that he let down not only Susie but her Creator. This is a striking contrast to the way Susie herself feels, partly because she holds no judgmental feelings for her father and partly because her personal heaven appears to be deity-free.
On Earth, Lindsey Salmon is traumatized when her camp announces a contest based on committing the perfect murder. In heaven, talking about it is one more way of passing the time. It's a funny idea that the souls of the dead spend time talking about how to commit the perfect murder—but this is Susie's heaven, and that's the kind of thing 14-year-olds talk about. In terms of the novel's plot, this inconsequential-seeming detail turns out to foreshadow the death of Mr. Harvey, who will be killed by a falling icicle while Susie watches.
Franny, Susie Salmon's "intake counselor" in heaven, was a therapist in life. Her task is to help Susie adjust to the afterlife, and she brings Susie to new heavenly locations when she judges that Susie is ready. The field where the olive tree is planted is visited by all of George Harvey's victims, both women and girls. It comforts Susie to know that she's not alone; it comforts her even more to tell her story to other victims. Whenever she tells someone what happened to her, she loses a tiny amount of the pain inside her. The day she finds the olive tree is the day that Susie decides to tell the story of her family as well as her own story.
There was a kid named Billy ... He saw a hole and went inside but he never came out.
Buckley Salmon writes this story in second grade. As his teacher understands, it's a clear reference to Susie's murder as well as his mother's departure. It's also a sad depiction of Buckley's state of mind. He has not been able to shed his grief and feelings of abandonment. But when Buckley brings the story home, his father is "too distracted" to get the message; he just tapes the story to the refrigerator. Seeing that his father has failed to understand, Buckley takes down the story, folds it up, and hides it inside the box spring of Susie's old bed.
Turning around she saw the tiny, straggling tree. She left my class portrait propped up against its trunk.
Mr. Salmon has had a heart attack, and Mrs. Salmon is on her way back to Pennsylvania to rejoin her family. During a layover in Chicago, she wanders outside the terminal for a cigarette and perches on the edge of a planter holding a small tree. Mrs. Salmon doesn't yet know that she'll be staying in Pennsylvania permanently, but some instinct tells her that she can't return with Susie's photo still in her wallet. She stares at the photo, noting that she's seen it so many times that it feels as though Susie is buried inside the image. When she sets it aside, she's making a symbolic pledge to honor her family's new configuration, which is no longer structured around Susie's absence.
Mr. Salmon is home from the hospital; Mrs. Salmon has rejoined the family; Lindsey and Samuel Heckler have just become engaged. Watching them all, Susie realizes that the family has become knitted together, forming new connections after she left them. Out of unspeakable tragedy, a "miraculous" new organism is forming. "The price of what I came to see as this miraculous new body had been my life." Susie doesn't mean that dying was a necessary sacrifice or that her family has managed to make itself stronger without her. But she sees that she can still love her family, and the living world, without trying to make sense of anything about her murder.
The idea of a murdered 14-year-old's bidding her world farewell is tremendously poignant. Susie's life was tragically cut short, but she has the grace not to envy the living. She has also stopped missing her loved ones. When her father had his heart attack, Susie yearned for him to die so that they could be together; she now accepts that things take their own time. However, the peace and acceptance in her goodbye is undercut by the fact that it is a goodbye. Susie is breaking the fourth wall to leave her readers, and she'll be missed.