Study Guide

The Lovely Bones Sex

By Alice Sebold

Sex

Chapter 1
Susie Salmon

I had been kissed once by someone I had liked. (1.76)

That kiss with Ray was the extent of Susie's sexual experience before Mr. Harvey.

Chapter 10

It was not so much, she would write in her journals, that she wanted to have sex with women, but that she wanted to disappear inside them forever, to hide. (10.26)

Ruth is in the process of discovering her sexuality. The passage above is very personal to Ruth and not easily 'translated' to a concrete statement about her sexuality.

Susie Salmon

At fourteen my sister sailed away from me into a place I'd never been. In the walls of my sex there was horror and blood, in the walls of hers there were windows. (10.138)

When Lindsey and Samuel make love for the first time, Susie notes the vivid contrast between what Mr. Harvey did to her and what Lindsey and Samuel do with each other. Both are sex, but resemble each other only in the most basic way.

Chapter 13
Susie Salmon

Clarissa, giggly with both fear and lust, had unlocked her privates and slept with Brian. However haphazardly, everyone I'd known was growing up. (13.2)

Susie gets awful snide when she describes Clarissa's sexual experience. Well, Clarissa, her best friend on Earth, has essentially betrayed her by not honoring her memory. Clearly Susie is jealous that others can experience consensual sex, while her only experience with sex was violent.

Chapter 15
Susie Salmon

To find a doorway out of her ruined heart in merciful adultery. (15.66)

Susie recognizes her mother's right to chose what she does with her body. She seems to see Abigail's affair with Len Fenerman as a healthy, necessary part of her grieving process and her process of self discovery. What do you think?

Chapter 16
Susie Salmon

What no one understood – and they could not begin to tell anyone – was that it had been an experiment between them. Ray had kissed only me, and Ruth had never kissed anyone, so […] they agreed to kiss each other and see. (16.17)

Ruth and Ray aren't going to let anybody dictate their path to sexual knowledge. But, they are both far less eager to actually have sex than the other people in the book. This undoubtedly has a lot to do with Susie.

Chapter 21
Susie Salmon

I held the part of him that Mr. Harvey had forced inside me. Inside my head I said the word gentle, and then I said the word man. (21.127)

For Susie, sex with Ray is a chance to face her fear of sex. The fear doesn't exist in heaven because up there she has no body. In Ruth's body, she gets to feel that unique trust that can happen between individuals during sex, a most vulnerable state.

Sex was an act of willful forgetting. It was the kind he made more and more in the rooms above the barbershop. (21.96)

Of course, Susie's talking about Len Fenerman, the lady-loving detective. He's using consensual sex to help him forget the vivid details of rape that come with his job. Do you think this is a healthy way to cope?

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