The Lovely Bones makes no bones about it – it's a very violent book. It begins with Susie's brutal rape and murder by George Harvey and looks at his other crimes. This violence is also a violence against Susie's family, which nearly breaks apart under the strain of her death. The Lovely Bones stays focused on violence against women and girls, particularly those whose lives are taken by violent attackers.
Questions About Violence
- Does the novel offer any explanations for the violence against women it depicts?
- The the novel offer any clear explanations for why Harvey is the way he is?
- Does the novel desensitize or resensitize readers to violence?
- Is violence ever used positively in the novel? Is there even such a thing as positive violence?
- What are some of the scenes that stand in counterpoint to extreme violence depicted?
- Is there a connection between the breast-less, vagina-less anatomy model in Ruth's art class and the sexual violence in the novel? Why or why not?
Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “The Lovely Bones” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics for “The Lovely Bones” below in conjunction with the list of important quotes at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Role of Grief in The Lovely Bones
Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones explores the different ways in which people process grief when they lose a common loved one. When Susie Salmon is killed on her way home from school, the remaining four members of her family all deal differently with their grief. Jack becomes obsessed with finding the killer, going so far as to attack a boy in a cornfield when he mistakes him for Susie’s murderer. Abigail turns in on herself, beginning an affair with the investigating officer, and then running off to California to keep from dealing with the pain. Perform a character analysis of main characters in The Lovely Bones and explore the ways in which they deal with their own private grief. Focus on Susie’s siblings, Ruth, and Ray Singh.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Lovely Bones and Survival
When Susie Salmon is murdered on her way home from school, she leaves behind a family and friends who care deeply for her. As each person deals with her death, most of them deal with a large amount of survivor’s guilt. The two characters that seem to have the hardest time accepting Susie’s death and their own survival are Lindsey Salmon and Ruth Connors. Lindsey deals not only with the drama in her family’s personal lives, but she also must learn to live her life and enjoy the milestones that she reaches, even while acknowledging that Susie will never have those special moments. Ruth deals with Susie’s death by delving into the psychic world. Despite the fact that she did not know Susie Salmon very well during her life, the dead girl is the primary focus of Ruth’s life after the murder. In what ways do Ruth and Lindsey react similarly throughout the novel, and in what ways is the loss of Susie Salmon especially poignant to the two girls?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: Growth in The Lovely Bones
Although Susie Salmon has been murdered when she is introduced in The Lovely Bones, the book is, oddly enough, a coming of age story. From her personal heaven, Susie must watch as the world she left behind shifts and settles into a new and unrecognizable place. While she realizes that is no longer a part of the world, she still must grow up, according to her heavenly advisor, in order to move on from her earthly ties and into her adult version of heaven. Susie achieves this coming of age through the painful, yet fulfilling experience of watching her peers live life and search out the meaning of her own death. Eventually, it is only when Susie comes back to earth and makes love with Ray Singh and ensure that George Harvey cannot kill again, that she is able to move on. Why is it important that Susie mature and grow, even after death? What does this transcendence say about forgiveness and spiritual growth?
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Function of the Supernatural in The Lovely Bones
The Lovely Bones is a novel that is different from the very opening lines. The narrator of the book, Susie Salmon, has been dead for quite some time when the book begins. Throughout the story, Susie talks about her own personal heaven, and the experiences that she shares with the people that she left behind on earth, even after her death. In what ways does Sebold’s description of the supernatural connect Susie with the people that are still living on earth? How does the ending of the book further develop these supernatural aspects.
This list of important quotations from “The Lovely Bones” by Alice Sebold will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “The Lovely Bones” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for Sebold's “The Lovely Bones” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text by Alice Sebold they are referring to.
“I watched my beautiful sister running . . . and I knew she was not running away from me or toward me. Like someone who has survived a gut-shot, the wound had been closing, closing – braiding into a scar for eight long years." (p. 242)
“These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections – sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent – that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life." (p. 320)
“Sometimes you cry, Susie, even when someone you love has been gone a long time." (p.261)
“When the dead are done with the living, the living can go on to other things,“ Franny said. “What about the dead?“ I asked. “Where do we go?" (p. 145)
“Had my brother really seen me somehow, or he was he merely a little boy telling beautiful lies?" (p. 95)
“I loved Ruth on those mornings . . . we were born to keep each other company. Odd girls who had found each other in the strangest way – in the shiver she had felt when I passed." (p. 79)
“At fourteen, my sister sailed away from me into a place I’d never been. In the walls of my sex there was horror and blood, in the walls of hers there were windows." (p. 125)
“”Hold still,” my father would say, while I held the ship in the bottle and he burned away the strings he'd raised the mast with and set the clipper ship free on its blue putty sea. And I would wait for him, recognizing the tension of that moment when the world in the bottle depended, solely, on me." (147)
“I had rescued the moment by using my camera and in that way had found how to stop time and hold it. No one could take that image away from me because I owned it." (p. 213)
Source: Sebold, Alice. The Lovely Bones. New York: Little, Brown & Company, 2002.