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Free Study Guide The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

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FREE ONLINE STUDY GUIDE THE LOVELY BONES

CHAPTER 6

Summary

This chapter uses the technique of flashback to allow Susie to relate her one and only “sex scene” in life. She remembers coming in the back way to school two weeks before she died, because she was late. She heard a voice say, “You are beautiful, Susie Salmon” and when she looked up, she saw Ray Singh on the scaffold above the stage. He was a boy who was born in India and had lived in England, and who had a crush on her. She thought he was cool and so much smarter than any of the other kids in eighth grade. He invited her to climb up there with him and she decided that it was one day in her life of being a bad kid. They were sitting together and he was just about to kiss her when suddenly the stage door opened and the principal and the art teacher entered with Ruth Connors. Susie and Ray watched from above the three. Ruth was in trouble, because she had drawn an actual female nude in art class, instead of the anatomy model. She was verbally disciplined and then, the two teachers left her alone and crying.

Susie climbed down and approached Ruth, asking to see the drawing. Ruth opened her portfolio and Susie saw many drawings that she thought made Ruth subversive - not because they were nude women, but because they were so much more talented than any her teacher could have drawn. Susie notes that “Ruth went from weird to special for me then.” She also notes that Ray would kiss her by her locker later that same week.

After the cornfield where Susie died is roped off, Ruth goes walking there frequently, even cutting class without getting into trouble. Her teachers are uncomfortable with her intelligence and never report her. Her father drops her off in the morning after pressuring her to have a sip from his vodka flask. He is an alcoholic and needs acceptance from her in the form of “sharing one for the road.” While she is in the cornfield each morning, Susie comes to learn that Ruth has eccentric thoughts, some of which Susie likes: she loves the rabbits on the athletic fields which seem to line up on the chalk lines like some tiny sports teams; she believes stuffed animals move at night when humans sleep; she still thinks little cows and sheep graze inside her father’s lunchbox. Ruth even finds Susie’s gloves, left by Lindsey in the field. She puts them on while looking at the sky and saying, “Thank you.” Susie grows to love Ruth on these mornings as an odd girl like her and they had found each other in the strangest way - “in the shiver she had felt when I passed.”


Because Ray had been for a moment a suspect in Susie’s killing, he walks to school every day as quickly as he can, so no lingering doubts can be applied to him. He sees Ruth in the field one morning and decides to meet up with her. Ruth is carrying an anthology of poems her father had found for her and Ray has tea in his father’s thermos. Ruth gives him lip gloss for his chapped lips and they form a friendship on the shot-putter’s cement platform. After that, they meet everyday and talk about everything and everyone. Most of all, they talk about Susie.

Susie’s father visits Ray Singh’s home in order to talk with the boy, but also because he has to leave when his wife becomes upset with Lindsey. He and his wife have been moving away from each other since Susie’s disappearance and he just leaves when she cries. He tells Ruana Singh, Ray’s mother, that he’s glad Susie had a boyfriend like Ray and he wants to tell him just that. He feels badly that he didn’t do what Ray had done for her on her last day on earth: tell Susie he loved her. He also admits to Ruana that he knows who killed Susie, but Ruana, while sympathetic to Mr. Salmon’s need for someone soft to lean on because of what’s happened, is most concerned about how he will affect Ray. She promises that she will meet Ray as he comes home from school, talk to him, and then see how he feels about talking with Mr. Salmon.

When she sees Ray coming up the street, Ruana puts on her coat to meet him. As she goes out the door, she tells Mr. Salmon that she would do exactly what he is doing and adds, “I would talk to everyone I needed to, I would not tell too many people his name. When I was sure, I would find a quiet way, and I would kill him.”

While Mr. Salmon is gone, Detective Len Fenerman comes to the Salmon home and is alone with Abigail Salmon. Buckley and his friend Nate are sleeping on the couch behind Susie’s mother. She begins to draw stick figures on the butcher paper the two boys had been coloring when they fell asleep. They talk quietly about Fenerman’s deceased wife until Mr. Salmon comes home. This is the beginning of a quietly growing attraction between the two. Susie feels like telling her mother to rush to the sink, look down the hole, and into the earth. Susie is there waiting and she’s up above watching.

Len Fenerman carries Susie’s school picture in his wallet with pictures of many other dead children. If a case involving any of the children had been solved, he’d write the date on the back and he left it blank, if the case had not been solved. Among these pictures is that of his wife. There is nothing on the back of Susie’s picture and nothing on the back of his wife’s.

Notes

Susie’s adolescent moment of love with Ray will grow in significance the longer she is dead and he is alive. The attraction between them was real and she will not be able to forget it as she tries to come to terms with her own death. It will have to be resolved before she can face her eternity. This attraction also will dominate the friendship that grows and will continue to grow between Ray and Ruth. Susie is what they have in common and that, too, will have to be resolved for both the living and the dead.

Jack Salmon’s visit to the Singh home is all part of his need for comfort. Not only is he feeling guilty that he wasn’t there to protect Susie, but he also feels guilt that he didn’t tell her he loved her. He hopes she listens to his pain. Similarly in pain, Abigail, his wife, is beginning to look outside her family for comfort. Her issues, however, are deeper than Susie’s death and at this point in the story, she is not yet sure where her needs will take her.

The pictures in Detective Fenerman’s pocket are a poignant example of loss. He takes all these unsolved cases personally, especially since Susie implies that one is his wife. We will later learn that she had committed suicide and Fenerman feels as much a failure about her death as Jack Salmon does about Susie’s.

 

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