The Lovely Bones Selected Quotes
by Alice Sebold

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Selected Quotes: Preface, Chapters 1-5

1. "'Don't worry, Susie; he has a nice life. He's trapped in a perfect world.'"

Susie's father says this to her about the penguin when she worries about him. It turns out that she is right; small creatures, like herself, do get hurt when their world is turned upside down.

Chapter 1
1. "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."

This line communicates several things, both literally and by implications. On the literal level, it tells readers who the narrator is, and how premature her death was. On the symbolic level, salmon are fish who swim upstream to spawn. Susie's entire story is going to be "upstream" and "against the current" of normal events.

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

This line gives readers a hint of the pure tragedy of Susie's existence. Before she went with Mr. Harvey into the cornfield, she was not just alive, she was human. At a certain point, though, she was reduced to a dying animal, a horrific fate.

Chapter 2
1. "When I first entered heaven I thought everyone saw what I saw."

On the most basic level, this statement guides readers, cueing them that this is heaven and acknowledging that the story is being told from the afterlife, but indicating that Susie's—and the reader's—expectations of what heaven was going to be like are wrong. On a more ambitious level, it sums up the idea that each person's heaven, like each person's happiness, will be a little different.

2. "These were my dreams on earth."

What shapes heaven? Heaven takes on specialized individual layouts and populations according to the dreams the dead had dreamt on earth. Heaven is a place where people are reassured, where their desires are all okay, and, most importantly, where the desires people had felt on earth get a final chance to work out. In many ways, the story told in The Lovely Bones is one in which all the characters form an extension of this sort of heaven: Susie sees her sister married, her parents happy, her murderer dead, etc.

Chapter 3
1. "On my way out of Earth, I touched a girl named Ruth. She went to my school but we'd never been close. She was standing in my path that night when my soul shrieked out of Earth. I could not help but graze her. Once released from life, having lost it in such violence, I couldn't calculate my steps. I didn't have time for contemplation. In violence, it is the getting away that you concentrate on."

This is an prime example of the effects of violence. It causes such pain that even the soul leaving the body can't control itself. Pain overwhelms calculation. However, it also brings people closer together, or it can. Susie and Ruth had not been close in life, but they are joined through Susie's pain.

2. "The truth was very different from what we learned in school. The truth was that the line between the living and the dead could be, it seemed, murky and blurred."

Susie's thoughts here are at once something to be wished, as a great good, and a terrible fear. On one hand, it means that those we've loved aren't ever really gone, and indeed, there are many instances in the novel of the dead watching over the living, lingering over love. On the other hand, it means that there is no clean break, and that people can be haunted, as Mr. Harvey is by his past.

Chapter 4
1. "In my heaven geranium petals swirled in eddies up to my waist. On Earth nothing happened."

This is one of the times when there is a great division between life and afterlife, and one of the ways that heaven is still painful. Susie wants desperately to contact her father, and in her heaven, the petals respond to her wishes. Down on Earth, matter is more stubborn, and the tragedy is that it doesn't automatically do what people want, no matter how intensely important it is.

2. "'We've just built a tent,' Mr. Harvey said. 'The neighbors saw us. We're friends now.'"

Mr. Harvey builds and draws models of places where people live. He...

(The entire section is 3,905 words.)