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Jack vs. Abigail: Methods of GriefMy heart went out to Jack during the course of the...

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ms-charleston... | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted July 14, 2010 at 9:27 PM via web

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Jack vs. Abigail: Methods of Grief

My heart went out to Jack during the course of the novel.  Jack: loving father endlessly devoted to finding and punishing his daughter's killer, keeping Susie's memory alive as a result.  Oh, but I felt SO differently about Abigail.  Abigail: mother who ceases to be a mother by withdrawing from family life first through endlessly washing dishes, then through an affair, then through flight for YEARS from the family.  I was disgusted.  I understand different people grieve in different ways; however, as a mother myself, I was simply appalled by Abigail's reaction here.  I was wondering about other readers' reactions to these two characters' methods of grief.

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ask996 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted July 15, 2010 at 9:29 AM (Answer #2)

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Absolutely. None of us can know how we would respond to the murder (or death even) of our child unless we have experienced it. However, I would like to think that my fierceness in protecting the family I have left would kick in, and in fulfilling my roles in their lives I would hopefully work through the grieving process. Abigail just gave up.

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cetaylorplfd | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted July 17, 2010 at 3:44 PM (Answer #3)

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I actually had really strong negative feelings towards Jack.  I can certainly understand wanting to get justice for your child and wanting to put closure on such a tragedy; however, he forgets that there are other people in his family.  He becomes obsessed with finding Susie's murderer and he can't think beyond this quest.  I really wanted him to just get his act together.  I thought that the film version of The Lovely Bones played down both Jack and Abigail so that they didn't seem so demolished by Susie's murder.

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dastice | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

Posted July 17, 2010 at 7:58 PM (Answer #4)

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I agree with the previous post.  The movie made Jack out to be a hero, but in the book I felt he just needed to let things go.  I actually sympathized more with Abigail.  She was not able to move past her grief with Jack there reminding her of it constantly.  She did abandon her family, but she was no good to them or herself if she stayed.

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marbar57 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted July 18, 2010 at 5:05 PM (Answer #5)

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I would hope that I would be strong and steady in the face of such a tragedy, but I don't really know what I'd do.  I watched my son and daughter-in-law deal with the death of their little girl over three years ago and it was painful enough!  She died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or Crib Death) in the middle of the night when she was 17 months old!  My daughter-in-law was the one who found her the next morning and she went ballistic!  My son handled it in his characteristic quiet, calm manner and was the rock in the storm for a while.  We were all shocked, stunned, and grief-stricken and it's even taken me a long while to learn to deal with it.  To be truthful, I still cycle through the stages occasionally. 

My daughter-in-law is the one who had us worried for the longest time!  I thought she had lost it!  She slipped into a depression that she is just now coming out of.  Wow-- three and half years!  It seems like just yesterday!

But, back to the point here!  Having seen what my daughter-in-law went through, how we lost her for a while, and the joy in finally having her back . . . it's truly a miracle!  We can't judge Abigail, or think badly of her because she "lost" it.  She couldn't have known she was going to react that way and I think she had to cope the only way she knew how to.  Maybe she just wasn't strong enough to do it any other way. 

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ms-charleston-yawp | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted July 21, 2010 at 4:47 PM (Answer #6)

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Wow!  Such great posts!  Thank you so much for responding, especially for allowing me to see the other side of the issue (which was the reason for my post in the first place).  Now it's time to re-read and re-explore!!!  : )

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jagged-little-pill | eNoter

Posted May 31, 2012 at 5:13 PM (Answer #7)

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Jack vs. Abigail: Methods of Grief

My heart went out to Jack during the course of the novel.  Jack: loving father endlessly devoted to finding and punishing his daughter's killer, keeping Susie's memory alive as a result.  Oh, but I felt SO differently about Abigail.  Abigail: mother who ceases to be a mother by withdrawing from family life first through endlessly washing dishes, then through an affair, then through flight for YEARS from the family.  I was disgusted.  I understand different people grieve in different ways; however, as a mother myself, I was simply appalled by Abigail's reaction here.  I was wondering about other readers' reactions to these two characters' methods of grief.

I think you're missing the point about exactly why Abigail left the family after Susie's death. Abigail became pregnant with Susie when she was a literature student in the late 1950s and broke up her studies to be a mother even though her dream was to become a teacher. She partly blames her daughters for her destiny and hates herself for blaming her daughters at the same time. When her daughters were 10 and 9 she wanted to return to the college to catch up her graduation and begin a teaching career, but she became pregnant with Buckley and had to (very reluctantly) give up those plans to be a full-time mother.  Abigail also hated her mother, Lynn, who was always pleased to being just a housewife and dependent on men, which explains why they don't have a very good relationship. Abigail couldn’t deal with the fact that she went down the same route as her mother, and her mother couldn’t understand her daughter’s desire to be more than just a mother and wife. This problem is one of the reasons that led Abigail to break out of her corset when she left her family after the death of her daughter. She had pretended to be content with the traditional female role, but after Susie is murdered, she realizes she can no longer keep up that facade, so she leaves the family to find work in California.

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