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The Lovely Bones By Alice Sebold

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1894 words Published: 2nd May 2017

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Alice Sebold was born September 6, 1963, in Madison, Wisconsin, (4). She was born to an alcoholic, demented mother, Jane, who was a journalist, and a father who was Spanish professor. She was their second child, and had an older sister, Mary. Her family moved around a couple of times because of her dad’s job and promotions: from Madison, Wisconsin to Rockville, Maryland, and then from there to Paoli, Pennsylvania. Sebold was a good student, but her older sister was the smarter, straight A student. Sebold was a creative person and loved writing, among other things. She described herself as, “too smart, too fat, too loud, too arty, (4). She often argued with her parents, and was the joker of the family. She was proud to say, “I wanted to be the moron of the family, because morons seemed to have more fun, more freedom and more personality (4). Being the “moron” was her way to cope living in the tense household.

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Sebold was an estranged, alienated second child. At a young age, she suffered through many hardships. When her mother began to drink, and became an alcoholic, her sister, Mary, took care of her. After a time, Mary began to be embarrassed of her mother, and did not want to be seen with her. Subsequently, she stopped taking care of her, leaving Sebold to take care of her herself, and to keep everything together. Sebold was the one to compensate- soothing her mother and condemning her sister (Glaug, 1).

After graduating from Great Valley High School in Malvern, Pennsylvania in 1980, Sebold attended Syracuse University in upstate New York, (1). During her freshman year in college, at age eighteen, she was harshly beaten and raped in a hallway that led to a now shut down amphitheatre. She then found the man later on, and went to court where he was found guilty and given a maximum sentence. Surprisingly, she still decided to attend the same university after the incident, determined to write out her sorrows and get her degree. Sebold struggled in many ways with the rape and the lack of support from her parents. She then dropped out and after many events, including working as a waitress and doing drugs, such as heroin, she decided to write her first book.

Her first book, a novel called Lucky, was a memoir to her rape as a college freshman. It was called so because a cop told her that she was lucky to have been able to walk out alive, as a while before, a girl had been killed and dismembered in that same tunnel. Sebold then moved to California and attended a university there to continue pursuing her writing career. There, she met her husband, the novelist Glen David Gold. Now a successful writer herself, Sebold currently lives in California with her husband.

Sebold became very successful after her second book. Her first book, Lucky, was a memoir of her rape. Her second book was what hit the top charts. At first called Monsters, this novel was about a fourteen year old girl named Susie Salmon who is raped, killed, and then dismembered by her neighbor, Mr. Harvey. The story is told from her point of view in heaven, and goes through the events that happen after her death. Later on, the name was changed, and was published as The Lovely Bones. She also wrote another book, The Almost Moon. Her books were influence by rape and the violence she sees in the world. The second book is also influenced by her struggles with her mother.

Sebold won the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction in 2003, (1). In addition, she achieved the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel in 2002. Sebold was nominated in the Novel category in 2002 as well. The Lovely Bones also became a #1 National Bestseller.

Susie Salmon, a fourteen year old girl, was murdered on December 6, 1973. Susie, a young curious girl, was walking home through the cornfield one night when she ran into her older neighbor, Mr. Harvey. He leads her into a manmade room under the earth in the cornfield, and there he rapes, kills, and dismembers her. Susie goes to heaven, where heaven is whatever you want and fits to your needs and personality. However, she still yearns for her lost life, and is still attached to life on Earth. As a result, Susie goes through her “afterlife” in her heaven and watches over her family. She also learns how the news of her death spreads and affects her family, those who were close to her, and others around them.

As she watches her family cope with her death in different ways, she also looks into Mr. Harvey’s past, meets some of his other dead victims, and keeps some tabs on him. She watches as her family goes through life through the years to come, and also watches over Ruth, a friend of hers, and Ray, a boy that she had really liked. Lindsey copes with her sister’s death, and over the years, has a boyfriend named Samuel, who she eventually marries in the end. Her little brother does not understand things as well, and at first, is angry at her for dying and leaving him there with Lindsey to deal with the problems. However, as he grows older, he learns to accept her death. Her father has a harder time, with the guilt of not being there for her pressed on his shoulders. All he sees is Susie and he can barely live with himself. He starts to grow farther apart from his wife. He also, later on, grows closer to his other two children, becoming very protective. Her mother probably took Susie’s death the hardest. It knocked her down hard and made her lose her stability and sanity. She grew farther apart from her husband and her other children. She also commits adultery with the detective in charge of Susie’s case. Later on, she leaves her family and travels across the country, trying to escape it all. Ray and Ruth become closer, and Ruth later discovers that she can communicate or see the dead. She later lets Susie into her body and Susie and Ray, via Ruth’s body, reunite and make love. After her time is up, she is taken to Heaven. She is finally able to let go of her connection to the Earth and her death.

In the end, her family became even closer, including her only living grandmother, who was usually excluded. Her mother comes back as well, and everyone, including Ruth and Ray, understand that Susie is truly gone and finally accept her death. This shows that because Susie was finally able to sever her connection to the Earth and accept her death, she could leave her heaven to go to Heaven. Her final acceptance of her death is what allows her family, friends, and others to finally let her go, remember her in memory, and to move on.

This book was banned due to having explicit material. The book opens up with a fourteen year old girl who gets raped, murdered, and then dismembered. Though this book deals with hope and healing, it is on a deeper level, (5). Younger children, like fifth and sixth graders, may not have reached the maturity level needed to read and understand this novel. Young adults and high school teens, for example, will understand it better. Some parents are questioning whether or not it should be available in middle school libraries, and other schools have either banned it or moved it into a restricted area for staff members. Parents are worried about how their young teens will comprehend the book, and if it will make them depressed, scared, or even scarred. For example, a parent of a sixth-grade girl at Coleytown Middle School wanted the book removed from the school library because she believed that the novel was, “right for an adult audience, but was not appropriate for a sixth grader” (3).

In addition, many believe that The Lovely Bones questions some aspects of religion. For example, they believe that the author’s idea of heaven has no God or judgment for those entering it, (5). This raised many questions and negative responses to the book, which the author then replied by saying that that was her way of seeing things and that everyone interprets things differently. The book was also banned due to mature themes, adultery, death, language, and other explicit scenes.

I knew he was going to kill me. I did not realize then that I was an animal already dying.

“Why don’t you get up?” Mr. Harvey sad as he rolled to the side and then crouched over me.

His voice was gentle, encouraging, a lover’s voice on a late morning. A suggestion, not a command.

I could not move. I could not get up.

When I would not – was it only that, only that I would not follow his suggestion? – he leaned to the side and felt, over his head, across the ledge where his razor and shaving cream sat. He brought back a knife. Unsheathed, it smiled at me, curving up in a grin.

He took the hat from my mouth.

“Tell me you love me,” he said.

Gently, I did.

The end came anyway.

The Lovely Bones, pgs. 14-15

While Len took her hand and brought her away from the wall into the tangle of pipes where the nose overhead added its own chorus, Mr. Harvey began to pack his belongings; my brother met a small girl playing Hula- Hoop n the circle; my sister and Samuel lay beside each other on her bed, fully dressed and nervous; my grandmother downed three shots in the empty dining room. My father watched the phone…

… Mr. Harvey left his house for the final time while my mother was granted her most temporal wish. To find a doorway out of her ruined heart, in merciful adultery.

The Lovely Bones, pgs. 196-197

The Lovely Bones is a good book that shows you a whole new way to look at life that really isn’t fair sometimes. However, it is also a book of hope and healing and shows how a family is torn apart and subsequently brought together again. This novel is deep and better understood by an adult or older audience.

I understand why it was banned and agree with it. It has many explicit scenes, like the rape, murder, and dismembering of Susie Salmon, as well as her family receiving the heart wretching news of her disappearance, and, later on, her death. The adultery committed by her mother, the mental instability of her father after her death, and the leaving of her mother may also not be well understood by a younger audience. This includes some language and the sex scenes between Lindsey and Samuel and Susie and Ray, via Ruth’s body. Some scenes are a little bit disturbing, and others are depressing, which is why it is not good for younger readers.

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However, I believe that The Lovely Bones was a good, and deep novel, and teaches us all many different lessons. I do not think it should be banned. Instead, it should be marked for an older audience so that readers are aware of the mature content it contains. In this way, people may enjoy this novel and know whether or not it is appropriate for their age level. For example, some people believe that seventh and eighth graders should not be allowed to read The Lovely Bones because of its mature content and deep meanings. However, some of these younger readers are mature enough to understand what is happening in the book. Though it may be good to ban it from certain schools, others should be able to acquire and enjoy this novel.


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