Study Guide

The Lovely Bones Violence

By Alice Sebold

Violence

Chapter 1
Susie Salmon

He had done this thing to me and I had lived. That was all. (1.90)

Susie has no illusions of continued life at this point. But, this sense of renewed life, of a moment of relief, is a powerful observation.

He reached into the pocket of my parka and balled up the hat my mother had made me, smashing it into my mouth. The only sound I made after that was the weak tinkling of bells. (1.81)

Although this is not the most violent thing Harvey does (if we can weight these things against each other) it's extremely impactful. Seeing him shut off her breath and voice gives the reader a vivid sense of suffocation.

I felt huge and bloated. I felt like the sea in which he stood and pissed and shat. I felt the corners of my body were turning in on themselves and out […] (1.84)

Instead of the violence itself, we are seeing its impact on Susie in the moment. Her inner life has been, in a matter of moments, utterly transformed.

Mr. Harvey

"You aren't leaving, Susie. You're mine now." (1.69)

This act, forbidding Susie to leave, is overtly violent. He is no longer pretending to be nice. His words express the depth of the brutality that will swiftly come.

"I've made a little hiding place," said Mr. Harvey. (1.24)

The making of the trap, the luring Susie into it – these are not mere preludes to violence. But links in the chain of violence which culminates in her death.

Chapter 4
Susie Salmon

He had put me in a waxy cloth sack and thrown in the shaving cream and razor from the mud ledge, his book of sonnets, and finally the bloody knife […] tumbled together with my knees, fingers, and toes. (4.4)

The after-violence is incredibly striking. The idea of Harvey carving up her body and tossing it about so carelessly may be hard on the reader. We are glad her family was spared the knowledge. Or, would it have helped them to know the truth?

Chapter 6
Ruth Connor

"If I'm not mistaken," said Miss Ryan, "there are no breasts on our anatomy model." (6.41)

Though this doesn't seem like a violent moment at first, but it sure feels violent to Ruth. Being denied the right to draw a part of her own anatomy is a type of violence, one thriving on power imbalances.

Chapter 14
Susie Salmon

It was on that day that I knew I wanted to tell the story of my family. Because horror on Earth is real and it is every day. It is like a flower or the sun; it cannot be contained. (14.100)

That horror Susie's talking about, most of it can be linked to some kind of violence – from Earthquakes to famine to cancer to murder.

Abigail Salmon

"This is not Susie, for Chrissakes," her mother would say, plunking down an inch thick sirloin in front of her daughter. (10. 8)

Ruth comes to equate Susie's murder with the slaughter of animals, so she becomes a vegetarian. Her totally insensitive mom provides a moment of comic relief.

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