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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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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.


The novel revolves around the story of Susie Salmon’s rape and murder and the resulting pain her family faces as they journey through the process of grief. The five stages of grief as identified by psychologists are obvious for each family member as the novel unfolds over an eight year period from 1973 to 1981.

Knowing the process of grief is helpful in understanding the steps each member of the family takes:


The reality of death hasn't hit home, it hasn't yet been accepted. You feel stunned and bewildered, everything seems unreal.

You lash out at family, friends, the doctor, or the world in general. Expect to experience feelings of guilt or fear during this stage.

You ask for a deal or reward from either God or the doctor. Comments like "I'll go to Church every day, if only my loved one will come back to me" are common.

Depression occurs as a reaction to the changed way of life created by your loss. You feel intensely sad, hopeless, drained and helpless. You miss, and constantly think, about your loved one.

Acceptance comes when the changes resulting from your loss are stabilized into a new lifestyle.


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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Lovely Bones". . 09 May 2017