Analyze what the penguin symbolizes

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In Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones, the narrator Susie Salmon recounts her murder and the effects it has on her family, friends, and community. She narrates from a purgatory-like place she describes as “her” heaven, an idyllic paradise she will eventually transition from when she is ready. In order to be ready, however, she must accept her fate and make peace with how she died.

For Susie, this means seeing her murderer caught, her fractured family made whole again, and her love for Ray fully expressed. In the prologue of the novel, Susie describes a snow globe on her father’s desk that houses a penguin. As a younger child, Susie expressed to her father her worry that the penguin was lonely. In response, Susie’s father told her he was “trapped in a perfect world.”

This quote implies that Susie, like the penguin, is stuck in a utopia of her own making (her heaven), which means she should not be lonely. Despite this fact, Susie feels sad and isolated in her heaven. Therefore, the penguin likely represents Susie and her despair over being separated from her family, friends, and the world due to her untimely death.

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