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Synopsis of the novel
The Lovely Bones
By : Alice Sebold

            Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old girl, is raped and murdered on her way home from school. Her killer, a neighbour named George Harvey, is considered a harmless loner. Harvey shows no remorse for the killing, and heartlessly disposes of Susie's body in the equivalent of a rubbish dump.
Susie tells her story from the vantage point of an 'in between state', a limbo that is not quite earth or heaven. She recounts the aftermath of her own death and its impact on the lives of her family, friends and killer, exploring both the paranormal world and the human condition.
            Susie's family struggles to come to terms with her death. Her mother, Abigail, is unable to express her grief and resorts to escapism. A detective named Len Fenerman leads the murder case but, to his distress, is unable to solve it. Susie's sister and father become convinced that Mr Harvey is guilty, and are frustrated when a lack of evidence means the case against him cannot be pursued; all seems lost when Mr Harvey quietly leaves the neighbourhood.
            Both troubled souls, Len and Abigail begin a brief affair. Abigail then leaves her family and travels to California, where she can live an anonymous life and attempt to escape her misery. Susie's grandmother, a glamorous functioning alcoholic, comes to stay with the remaining family and helps them begin to live a normal life again.

            Two of Susie's school friends, Ray Singh and Ruth Connors, are particularly affected by her death. Ray and Susie shared her only kiss on earth, and Ray is temporarily viewed as a suspect in her murder (perhaps due to racial prejudice). Ruth, an artistic and sensitive girl, is touched by Susie's spirit when she leaves the mortal world, and from then on becomes obsessed with Susie and the paranormal.

            Susie is unable to let go of her life on earth, and over the years she lives vicariously through those left behind; in particular her sister Lindsay, whom she watches growing up, falling in love and becoming a successful young woman. When Susie's father suffers a heart attack, her mother returns to the family home. After initial difficulties, the family bonds begin to reform. The characters come to terms with their grief and begin to let go of a past that cannot be changed. Susie is soothed by the peace which she sees them begin to achieve. Mr Harvey is never brought to justice by the police, but meets his end before he can claim any more lives. Before she is able fully to move on, Susie returns to earth one last time, and her spirit enters Ruth's body. She makes love to Ray Singh, marking her emancipation from the past and her acceptance that she no longer has a future on earth. She is finally able to pass on to a true heaven, to be released from her damaging attachment to the living – to find peace.


Point of View
            The entire point of view is first person. Susie relates everything that happens to every character, including their thoughts as well as their deeds. She is an omniscient character in that she can see and know everything about those who love her, even their past. It’s only when she chooses not to know that her omniscience disappears.
            Since everything is filtered through Susie, it might seem as if the reader is denied access to the reality each character might present if he could speak for himself. However, this point of view still allows us to know what the characters are thinking and feeling and we get a wonderful sketch of each one. This may be due to the fact that Susie loves them all or is bound to them all in some enduring way.

Style and Tone

Narrative style
First Person
~ An intimate relationship is formed immediately so that we side with Susie instantly and begin to allow ourselves to be consumed by Susie’s tragedy -1st sentence.
~ She confides in us -not only rape/murder (Chap 1), but her first kiss (p14), the secret, revealing photo of her mother (p 43), her hiding spots (p145) etc, we form a relationship of trust. “I want to grow up”P19

-Unsentimental tone
-Chilling description -see imagery (imagery and tone work together to
create sympathy)
-Sebold’s narrative is void of feeling and sentiment -as if she does this so  the readers fill it with our own emotive reactions - empathy

-The strong and graphic imagery used evokes a strong emotional reaction from the reader -uses strong imagery to reinforce relationship between Susie and reader because we feel deep sympathy for what has happened to Susie.
-“fitting my limbs together”-p8
-“he had put me in a waxy cloth sack…tumbled together with my knees
fingers and toes…” -p50
-“town of floating graves” - p182

Use of Flashback
-a technique that acts as a vehicle in allowing us to understand characters
better, and feel sympathy for them
-flashbacks are scattered right through the novel

Different ways flashbacks are used:

Sympathy for Susie
-Happy, normal childhood memories juxtaposed with her cruel reality. - first kiss p13
-Everything precious memory of Susie’s is ruined by Mr. Harvey -flashbacks
stylistic device used to further our hatred for Mr. Harvey..

Theme and Subject

The theme of grief is the most important theme in the book. The author herself understands what this family experiences. In her book, Lucky, she tells the story of her own rape and near murder. This kind of experience can be so devastating that the victim must grieve what happened to her and how she has changed. We see her own experience in Susie, who not only must follow her family’s progress through grief, but also her own progress. It is a kind of primer or textbook for us all. We, too, could someday face what the author and her characters have endured. The theme also allows the reader to understand these characters better, even George Harvey, the monster.

Love and Acceptance
The theme of love and acceptance weaves throughout the narrative. The farther the Salmons move away from each, the more they begin to realize they need to turn around and move back. This theme emphasizes just how much we need each other when we are at the lowest emotional level to which we can fall. When someone dies in our lives, we believe we will never recover. However, the author uses her characters to teach us that with acceptance comes recovery for us all.

Good versus Evil
The theme of good versus evil is one that has flowed throughout the history of literature. In this case, it involves how the Salmon family deals with the evil which has been perpetrated upon them and on Susie and allows goodness to flow out of it rather than the bitterness which could have stayed with them forever. What George Harvey did is the ultimate evil, but Susie and her family teach the reader that they must not fall into that blackness and never surface again. Susie represents the goodness that comes out to surround her family and protect them. It is a time-honored lesson.

The Feminist Approach to Rape and Murder
The theme of the feminist approach to rape and murder is a subtle thought placed into the mind of the reader, which emphasizes that we must not reduce rape and, sometimes, the murder that results, as an unimportant crime. Len Fenerman, for example, grieves for all the girls and women who have been raped and perhaps murdered and whose murderer has never been caught. But he gives up looking for them and the author’s message echoes the idea that these kinds of violations must never be forgotten.

Plot Structure Analysis
The novel takes place over a period of eight years after Susie Salmon’s death. However, it is filled with flashback scenes where Susie remembers something in her life and the lives of her family and friends and they are inserted into the story.
There is also a mini-Prologue, which involves Susie’s memory of her father and the penguin snow globe, which causes the reader to focus on the idea of a perfect world. The whole novel then becomes a search for that perfection in the midst of over-whelming grief. There is an interlude called Snapshots between Chapters 16 and 17. This is meant to emphasize the idea that the pictures Susie had taken are snapshots of many lives and the memories they retain. They also help to analyze why the characters make the choices they do.
The last section of the book is entitled Bones, but it is really an epilogue. We see how the Salmon family and their friends finally step away from their grief and release Susie to Heaven. It also gives us an explanation for the title: The Lovely Bones are actually not just Susie’s body; they are also the cement that binds her family together and allows her to find her “wide, wide Heaven.” That’s why they’re lovely.
Rising Action
The rising action begins with the scene of Susie’s murder and ends just before she falls to earth and enters Ruth’s body. In between are the eight years the Salmons endure the burden of grief. We see such things as the pain Lindsey feels when the Gifted Symposium uses the Perfect Murder as their culminating project; the time that Mr. Salmon thinks he’s trapped George Harvey in the cornfield and is beaten himself; the first Christmas after Susie’s death when Lindsey receives the broken heart pendant from Samuel; the exploration of George Harvey’s house where Lindsey finds the sketch of the cornfield; Jack Salmon’s heart attack and near death; Abigail’s return home; Samuel and Lindsey finding the old house and becoming engaged; and Susie falling into Ruth’s body so she can have her heart’s desire fulfilled by the Grace of Heaven.
There is really no suspense in the rising action except when Lindsey goes into George Harvey’s house, but it is a culmination of wonderful and also awful moments in the lives of a family who has suffered greatly and deserves peace.
Falling Action
The falling action first involves the wonderful experience between Ray and Susie through the miracle of her entrance into Ruth’s body. It is very uplifting, because it shows how love triumphs in the end. The falling action also involves the aftermath for all of the Salmons and their friends: Jack and Abigail resolve their marriage; Lindsey and Samuel are married and have a little girl; Buckley becomes a fine young man who will come to forgive his mother; Ruth continues what makes her happiest - using her sight to help the dead and the living; Ray becomes a doctor and never forgets the possibilities of Heaven; and Susie lets go of Earth and faces her eternity. She leaves us with her final blessing, “I wish you all a long and happy life.” The reader then can close the book with the sense that he/she has just learned something wonderful and dear.


Major Characters

Susie Salmon
She is the main character and narrator of the novel, the young girl who has been raped and murdered. She tells us everything she sees happen to her family for eight years after her death.

George Harvey
This is the man who murdered Susie. The reader sees through Susie’s eyes all the events in his life, including the murders he committed and the childhood that molded him into a murderer.

Jack Salmon
He is Susie’s father; his undying love and devotion for her is examined by Susie and the reader in detail.

Abigail Salmon
She is Susie’s mother, who cannot face Susie’s death and yearns for a different life than the one she was dealt.

Lindsey Salmon
She is Susie’s sister, who faces Susie’s death with a silent, but stalwart wall of grief. Susie follows her life more closely than the other members of her family.
Buckley Salmon
He is Susie’s little brother, who after her death, sees her and talks to her.

Ray Singh
He is the boy who gives Susie her first kiss before she dies and after she dies, makes love to her through the miracle of Ruth Connors’ body.
Ruth Connors
She is the girl in Susie’s class who becomes obsessed with seeing her and knowing her after her death and who looks to help girls and women who were murdered or who might be murdered.

Len Fenerman
He is the detective who investigates Susie’s death. He falls in love with her mother, because he needs someone to help him come to terms with the suicide of his wife and all the deaths that remain unsolved.

Ruana Singh
She is Ray’s mother, who has been all but abandoned by her ambitious husband. She, too, must come to terms with living her life alone. Hers is a kind of grieving process as well.

Samuel Heckler
Lindsey’s boyfriend and future husband, he helps her by filling the void left by Susie’s death and the loss of her mother.

Minor Characters

Grandma Lynn
She is Susie’s grandmother, her mother’s mother, who provides support for the family after Abigail leaves.

Hal Heckler
He is Samuel’s brother and runs a motorcycle shop where Susie will make love to Ray Singh. He also provides support for the family and uses a biker’s network to help track down George Harvey.

He is Buckley’s friend. He can’t see Susie even though Buckley can.

She is Susie’s friend whom Jack attacks in the cornfield, believing she’s George Harvey.

Brian Wilson
He is the young man of questionable morals who beats up Jack Salmon for attacking Clarissa in the cornfield.

Mr. Botte
He is Susie’s science teacher. His own daughter dies of leukemia and this encourages him to also never forget Susie.

She is Susie’s roommate in Heaven. She plays the saxophone at Eventide.

Mrs. Utemeyer
She plays the violin at Eventide and was an old lady on Earth who saw her own daughter, Natalie, in Lindsey’s blonde hair. She is the first dead body Lindsey and Susie ever see.

She is Susie’s “Intake Counselor.” Her job is to help Susie’s soul find release from Earth.

He is Susie’s dog who finally meets up with her in her Heaven.

Harvey’s Victims
They are the various girls and women whom Susie sees both in Heaven and on Earth. Ruth often sees them as well.

Mr. O’Dwyer
He is the ne ighbor who sings Irish ballads both at the first anniversary remembrance for Susie and in her memories of summer nights when she was still alive.

The Fergusons
They are the couple who charge fees for dumping large items into the sinkhole. Mrs. Ferguson accepts the safe that holds Susie’s body for a fee of $20.

The novel, The Lovely Bones, is set mainly in a small town near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1973 to 1981. There are also minor settings in New Hampshire and California.
            The protagonist of a story is the main character who traditionally undergoes some sort of change. He or she must usually overcome some opposing force. Susie is the protagonist of The Lovely Bones. She presents her story as the narrator and observer of how life changes in a family where a murder takes place. She gives us a deep understanding of each member of her family and how they endure the grieving process. She is forever a 14 year-old girl and so, even though she can analyze what happens to those she loves, she has a difficult time accepting her own death and moving on to her “wide, wide Heaven.”
            The antagonist of a story is the force that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. The antagonist does not always have to be a single character or even a character at all.
            On the surface, the antagonist is Mr. Harvey. After all, he is a serial killer with deep emotional problems. He is a danger to any young girl or woman whom he seeks to “free from her horrible life.” However, another antagonist lies much deeper: grief and the guilt that partners with it. The Salmon family is not so much in a battle against the murderer of their daughter and sister. In fact, they are at war with themselves and each other as they try to come to terms with the tragedy that has befallen their family. This war lasts eight years, until all involved have experienced every step of their grief, including Susie.

            The climax of a plot is the major turning point that allows the protagonist to resolve the conflict. This moment occurs when Susie has her greatest wish fulfilled: she makes love with Ray Singh through the miracle of entering Ruth’s body. This allows her to “grow up” and so enter the Heaven where she truly belongs.
            The outcome is the final resolution of the story or the denouement. In the end, every family member has accepted his or her way of grieving for Susie and cut the cord that binds him or her to Susie, cords that keep Susie bound to Earth. They move on with their lives and Susie accepts her own death
Kinds of the novel
            Mysterious story.
Moral Value
-          Be positive thinking to judge someone.

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