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PLOT ANALYSIS - THE LOVELY BONES BY ALICE SEBOLD
Susie remarks that over the years, when she grew tired of watching,
she would sit in the back of the trains that went in and out of Suburban
Station in Philadelphia. As she allowed herself to stop focusing for awhile
on her own loved ones, she would hear the voices of those who no longer
lived on earth talking to their own families and friends. The dead always
continued to watch over at least one person who had loved them or who
had been kind to them, but for Susie, the sound of the trains picking
up speed would for awhile be preferable to the calling out of names to
the living. Then, the sounds of life replace the endless sounds of the
dead. So, as she turns away from Earth on the day that Samuel and Lindsey
become engaged, she is reminded of only one thing: the times when she
would hold the ship in the bottle while her father burned away the strings
he had used to raise the mast. And she remembers, then, when, in the tension
of that moment, the world in the bottle depended solely on her.
Susie’s act of getting “lost” in Lindsey’s life over the years is reminiscent of her desire to still be alive. She has not yet lost the feeling of regret at her own death, even though she has taken baby steps over the last eight years on Earth to begin to separate herself. She even shares Lindsey and Samuel’s most private moments, including the day he asks her sister to marry him. Her joy is mostly for Lindsey, but even though she shares it vicariously, for Susie, it is a little joy for herself as well. Of course, it’s a joy that, in her heart, is not really hers to share.
The reader is reacquainted with the snow globe mentioned in the mini-prologue. It forever ties Susie in her father’s mind, but it is especially significant, because her father had told her not to worry about the penguin inside. He lived in a perfect world. So, for both Jack and Susie, alike, the perfect world, where she is alive and grows up too just like Lindsey, is a world that can never come to pass for either one of them.
Even though Abigail does not actively appear in this chapter, she is still a shadow in their lives. In finding the pictures Susie had taken of her, Jack has come to fall in love with his wife all over again. He feels a deep guilt for having somehow failed her, just as he still grieves for not being able to protest Susie.
Lindsey and Samuel’s running home is for a fragile father, who, they know, will worry until they are there, but also for the sheer adrenalin rush they feel at committing themselves to each other for life. Even after they tell him about their engagement, Susie sees a fine wavering line connecting her sister to her father, an “invisible cord that can kill.” It’s a line, among many in this chapter which represents both the family’s bond and its chains. In addition, Susie knows, from the memory of the two of them that Lindsey has as she runs by the public pool, that her sister is almost healed of the loss of her sister. Samuel has stepped into the void as completely as he possibly can and the scar is nearly knit up.
The most poignant moment of the chapter comes when Buckley sees Susie standing by the old colonial clock, strings waving out away from her toward them all. The strings are slowly being cut as her family finally is beginning to let her go and she disappears before Buckley can call her name and bring her back. Susie turns to the sounds of the trains to make her hear the sounds of life rather than death. Her memory at this time of her father relying on her to hold the ship in the bottle steady while he burns the strings harkens to Buckley seeing her with strings waving out around her ghostly face. The family is beginning to rely more and more on each other and not the lives they lived with Susie. It remains to be seen if Susie will allow the strings to burn away as well.
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Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on The Lovely Bones".
. 09 May 2017