The Lovely Bones Questions and Answers
by Alice Sebold

The Lovely Bones book cover
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What is the overall theme (or message) of The Lovely Bones? What message is the author trying to give to the reader?

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Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones has several themes that include love, loss, grief, unity, and death. Yet, out of all of those themes the one that begins and closes the story is the theme of mortality.

Mortality is inevitable and makes us small when we compared how vast and immense life seems, and how ironically easy it can vanish in one second. It shows us the fragility of life, and makes us question the purpose of all around us. Yet, we cannot dwell on it and, as we continue to breath, we must continue to live.

In the novel Susie, a young woman, speaks from the afterlife, hoping to cope with her death, and with the loss of those who once were around her. Similarly, her family continues to live trying to cope with the horrible crime, and trying to make amends in whatever way they can.

Mortality becomes ever-present in the Salmon family every since Susie elbow was found, and she was declared dead. It is because now they can see how ephemeral life is that they start making choices for themselves and their own lives individually, and no longer for the family. Dad engages in a battle for justice, while the mother goes away and tries to get to know herself again. Susie's death gave them all a key to look deeper into their lives. Still, it is clear that the murder has touched them in such a way that they can appreciate how finite life really is.

Even the man who committed the crime continues to lead a normal life without remorse. Yet, he too meets his end. He too is mortal and he too will get to pay for his sins.

A moment later, the icicle fell. They heavy coldness of it threw him off balance just enough for him to stumble and pitch forward. I would be weeks before the snow in the ravine melted enough to uncover him

In other words, mortality makes everyone, friend or foe, just as small and helpless in the big scheme of things.

Another reason why mortality ranks as the most influential theme of the novel is because the entire story is told from the perspective of a dead woman looking into the world of the living. The way that she sees the daily dynamics of the living, their reactions, and their struggles contrast greatly with her own reality as someone who exists in a realm that nobody really knows and most fear for whatever reason. The theme of mortality and death is prevalent in the plot, helps it move forward, and it is when Susie accepts her mortality and the fact that she will remain in the afterlife, when the story of Susie finally comes to a cathartic and satisfying (while still very sad) ending.

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Many of the themes within Alice Sebold's novel The Lovely Bones are intertwined. This interconnection of the themes, then, speak to the message of the novel. The themes of the novel are loss and grief (the novel depicts the different stages of both), life and death (both the life and death of Susie (both literal and figurative) and her family (figurative)), and coming of age/rites of passage (denoted by Susie's growing knowledge, her feelings for Ray Singh, and her coming to terms of letting go).

The interconnection of these themes, then, speak to the message of the novel: how to deal with grief. Sebold forces readers to suffer with Susie and her family. For the more engaged reader, one may feel as if they lost Susie. The reader follows Susie and her family along an emotional roller coaster which allows Susie, her family, and the reader to finally let go.

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