Study Guide

Doll Bones Mortality

By Holly Black

Mortality

He thought of all of them—all his characters, stuck in the duffel bag, rats chewing at the edges. He thought of bugs crawling over them and trash dumped on top of them. He thought of the folded-up Questions, still in the backpack, and of how he'd said William's nightmare was being buried alive. (4.2)

When Zach pictures his toys at the dump, the imagery of decay and decomposition is vivid. Not that we're afraid or anything…

Now that it was daytime, he could see the glass orbs were slightly too small for her eye sockets, leaving gaps in the corners. An ant crawled out from one of them, marching across her eye and up over her forehead into the thicket of her hair. (8.50)

Here's another image of decay. The Queen is made of porcelain, but here it almost sounds as though she's decomposing like a real human body. Gross.

"If you died," Poppy said, keeping her voice low, "Do you think you'd want to be a ghost?" (9.64)

Talking about ghosts seems like a safe way for the kids to explore death, which is a really scary concept. And while ghosts aren't exactly alive, they're not exactly dead either, which perhaps helps the kids think of death as not so final.

Maybe she could possess him anytime she wanted, just like the dead people who possessed you when you passed by graveyards. (12.16)

Sounds like Zach's imagination might be running away from him a bit. In his defense, graveyards really give him the creeps.

"There can't be a ghost, a real ghost. Because if there is, then some random dead girl wants to haunt Poppy, but my own dead parents can't be bothered to come back and haunt me." (12.59)

Unbeknownst to her friends, Alice struggles with the idea of ghosts—not because she doesn't believe in them, but because her parents are dead. Is it fair to say that if ghosts are real, then Alice's parents not haunting her is kind of like them dying all over again?

And there was a lady who got stood up on her wedding day and was found, weeks later, dead in her wedding gown. (13.122)

Here's a random description of a dead woman who Zach reads about. You know, for atmosphere.

"I hate that you're going to leave me behind. I hate that everyone calls it growing up, but it seems like dying. It feels like each of you is being possessed and I'm next." (14.43)

Poppy's mourning the death of her friends' childhoods, and she's scared about the fact that she's next.

It was hypothesized that he had murdered his daughter and used the method of calcifying cattle bone to dispose of her body. (15.62)

This is maybe the most gruesome image in a book filled with gruesome images. But as it turns out, Mr. Kerchner did not murder his daughter; she died when she fell out of a window. Yay?

Now when he looked at her, he couldn't help but believe she was really made from the bones of a dead girl. It made touching her shuddersome. (16.34)

Whether or not the Queen is made from the bones of a dead girl, she has been stuffed with a burlap sack that contains the bones of something. It's pretty "shuddersome" either way.

"We have to give her a good funeral," Zach said. "We came all this way. We have to do it right." (16.95)

Zach never had the opportunity to say goodbye to the toys his father threw away, but when he buries the Queen, he finally gets closure. R.I.P. childhood.

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