Study Guide

The Lovely Bones Mortality

By Alice Sebold

Mortality

Chapter 1
Susie Salmon

I knew he was going to kill me. I did not realize then that I was an animal already dying. (1.91)

This quote obviously refers to the violence by which she dies, which heavily impacts her experience in the afterlife. It also suggests that her injuries, prior to Mr. Harvey killing her with the knife, are serious enough to kill her.

Chapter 2
Susie Salmon

But when they held up the evidence bag with my hat in it, something broke in her. The fine wall of leaden crystal that had protected her heart […] shattered. (2.115)

For some reason, the saliva-covered hat, which Mr. Harvey uses to gag Susie, is what convinces Abigail that Susie is dead. Why is this more convincing to Abigail than the elbow? Well, because she recognizes it. She made it. It's a psychological thing.

"It was an elbow. The Gilbert's dog found it." (2.70)

We don't know exactly how they knew this was Susie's elbow, or what shape it was in when they found it. It comes to symbolize Susie's death and to stand in for the rest of her bones, which are never found.

"I could not have what I wanted most: Mr. Harvey dead and me living. Heaven wasn't perfect." (2.39)

Susie isn't in to the whole death thing whatsoever when she first gets to heaven, but she gets used to it one she's realizes how cool it is.

We had been given, in our heavens, our simplest dreams. (2.17)

The Lovely Bones strongly suggests that when we go to the afterlife, we bring along all our Earthly traits, and we continue to grow and change after we die.

"All evidence points to your daughter's death. I'm very sorry." (2.131)

Some of the worst words a parent can hear.

Chapter 5
Jack Salmon

"Susie is dead," he said now, unable to make it fit in the rules of any game. (5.137)

Susie even cries in heaven when Jack is trying to explain Monopoly and Susie's death in one fell swoop. We wouldn't blame you if you cried too.

Detective Len Fenerman

A little strange, Fenerman thought, but it doesn't make the man a murderer. (5.51)

We wonder what it would have taken for Len to think someone was a suspect. If that someone was a seemingly respectable suburbanite, probably a heck of a lot. This also shows us that Len isn't one of those cops who uses 'gut feelings' to solve crimes.

Chapter 6
Ruth Connor

Ruth smiled into her cup. "Well, as my dad would say, it means she's out of this s***hole." (6.119)

Ruth, at least in this moment, thinks of death as a relief from the crappiness of life. Yet, she comes to understand that there is work to be done here, for the dead, which will give her a) entrance into heaven without dying, and b)major brownie points with the heavenites when she does die.

Chapter 18

Heading north on First, she could tick off all the places she'd formerly stopped and stood, certain that she'd found a spot where a woman or girl had been killed. (18.9)

Ruth, as a result of deep interest and being touched by ghost Susie, exists on a plane where she can understand these crime scenes. New York City becomes a map of the places where women and girls were killed. Like Susie, Ruth focuses on female victims.

Epilogue: Bones

A moment later, the icicle fell. They heavy coldness of it threw him off balance just enough for him to stumble and pitch forward. I would be weeks before the snow in the ravine melted enough to uncover him. (Epilogue.30)

We feel like Susie helped the icicle fall, but there's just no way to know! How frustrating. What do you think? What or who makes the icicle fall? Does it just fall by itself?

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