Study Guide

Life After Life Staircases

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Upstairs, Downstairs

Bad things happen on staircases in this book. We're told that "Staircases were very dangerous places, according to Sylvie. People died on them" (17.15). Yikes. And she's not kidding, either. Check it:

  • Her father is found dead at the foot of the stairs, although no one hears him fall.
  • Ursula shoves Bridget down the stairs.
  • The Misses Nesbits are on the stairs when a bomb falls on their apartment building.

Okay, so stairs equal death. But now let's dig a little deeper. Do you remember what else happens on the stairs? Ursula is raped by Howie. And while this assault sets into motion a chain of events that leads to Ursula's brutal death, because it happens on the stairs we understand that she died—if not physically, then psychically—the moment she is raped. Driving this point home is the way Sylvie treats Ursula after the rape, which sends a strong message to her daughter that she is no longer worthy or valuable.

If we found ourselves in the world of Life After Life, we'd take the elevator. Every. Single. Time.

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