Study Guide

The Lovely Bones Rules and Order

By Alice Sebold

Rules and Order

Chapter 2
Detective Len Fenerman

"Nothing is ever certain," Len Fenerman said. (2.43)

That was the line my father said to my mother, "Nothing is ever certain." (2.44)

Len's phrase is comforting at first, but hollow and even cruel eight years later, when he brings them Susie's charm. It also shows his desire to maintain order in the chaos.

Chapter 5
Jack Salmon

"I'm certain there's a man in my neighborhood who knows something." (5.29)

And so Jack's frustrating and fruitless attempt to bring his daughter's killer to justice begins. He's trying to restore order to the situation. But Len Fenerman's desire to preserve order by being carefully not to accuse people without evidence wins out.

Detective Len Fenerman

"Each year it's something I do for Leah. […] My wife. I'm a widower." (5.54)

Len felt that he was intruding on this man's private rituals. (5.55)

And here's where Harvey gets him. Since Len actually is a widower, Harvey inadvertently presses his sympathy buttons. Len will believe anything now, even a wedding tent.

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

Len Fenerman is trying to be a good cop. He can't stand the idea of making a mistake, of inconveniencing an honest citizen. He's too careful.

Chapter 6
Susie Salmon

I realized how subversive Ruth was then, not because she drew pictures of nude women that got misused by her peers, but because she was more talented than her teachers. (6.64)

Ruth is a triple threat – talented, opinionated, and willing to act. She's a threat to the order being imposed on her art class since the hippie art teacher got fired.

Chapter 10

"You have to give up on Earth." (10.52)

This seemed impossible to me. (10.53)

Susie is still running on Earthly rules and order when she gets to heaven. She can't yet conceive of a the much broader design of the afterworld.

Chapter 14

"5! 5! 5!" (14.51)

Lindsey's soccer jersey flashing at him as she escapes his clutches with evidence of his crimes represents the destruction of Harvey's ability to blend into society. It puts him on a path to deeper disintegration. Yet, it is not, for him, a reminder of what he did to Susie.

Chapter 15
Mr. Harvey

"Well, that person who did it had built something underground, a hole, and then I confess I began to worry about it and detail it the way I did the dollhouses, and I gave it a chimney and a shelf, and, well, that's just my habit." (15.38)

This is just a bit too much. If we were the cops, we would have arrested him then and there. We can't blame Len for this one. Oh, yes we can, he was at the mall with Abigail. Oh well, if Susie doesn't hold it against him, neither do we.

Chapter 20
Susie Salmon

He wanted to give the charm back to my father from the first moment he was able to confirm it was mine. Doing so was breaking the rules, but he never had a body for them […]. (20.6)

Len's gesture is appreciated, at least by Jack. Again, we see him trying to create order in a disorderly world, even if it means not going by procedure. Of course, he's also hoping to disrupt a little order here, too. He probably wouldn't mind if Abigail chose him over Jack.

Susie Salmon

But she was no shadow of a human form, no ghost. She was a smart girl breaking all the rules.

Ruth goes all gothic superhero on us at the end – breaking through the Inbetween, entering heaven, and leaving her body on Earth for Susie. Quite a feat, and an act of both defiance and preservation of order.

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