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Free Online Notes for The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold-Study Guide
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The theme of grief is the most obvious message Alice Sebold uses in her novel. People react differently when the tragedy of death strikes and especially when the death is a gruesome one like murder. The author wants us to know that facing this overwhelming sense of loss is a long process for most and even longer for others. In the end, Susie and her family experience the final stage of the grieving process: acceptance and a stabilized, new lifestyle.

Love and Acceptance

The theme of love and acceptance is also prevalent. It isnít just love for the dead person and acceptance of her death. It is also love and acceptance of the way those around her react to the tragedy. The Salmon family allows the ties that bind them to morph into chains that they each want to break in some way, so they can then run away. The truth is the realization that only with the ties, not the chains, can they begin again, renewed and ready to face life.

Good versus Evil

The theme of good versus evil is also an obvious lesson of The Lovely Bones. This theme, of course, is one of the most prevalent in all literature, but the author presents it in such an interesting way. We see the serial killer as he evolved into the monster he became and, at the same time, we almost sympathize with him for having been a victim of an environment that might have made monsters of any of us. However, Susie, who represents good, wants his death for the most serious reason possible - she wants to protect all women and girls from him. In the end, she has to release her desire for revenge and concentrate on what is good for everyone, both living and dead. So, she releases it by contributing to his death and the walking away emotionally from him. Mr. Harvey has no chains to hold her anymore, he will never hurt any other girl or woman, and good triumphs over evil.

Another important theme involves the feminist view of the rapes and, often, murders of innocent young girls and women. The subtle implication here suggests that law enforcement and those outside the family soon shrug off the violence they have shared and forget the victim, especially if she lives. The impact is devastating to the victim and her family, but especially during this time of American history, rape was not viewed as the violent crime it is today. Sebold seems to be emphasizing that we must be more vigilant for the monsters like George Harvey, but we must also be ever supportive of the women these monsters destroy.


The mood is, for the most part, very poignant and sad. We mourn for Susie right along with her family and friends. We grieve as well for the unfulfilled desires she feels in heaven and her inability to let go of Earth. At times, the mood is also suspenseful as we watch Mr. Harvey stalk his victims. In the end, however, it is also about happiness and the quiet satisfaction of the acceptance of life brings.


Alice Sebold was born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1963. She grew up in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and graduated from Syracuse University in 1984. She also attended graduate school at the University of Houston and ultimately earned a Masters in Fine Arts degree from the University of California-Irvine in creative writing.

Her first novel was Lucky (published in 1997), Lucky is a memoir of her own rape while she was a freshman at Syracuse University and the effect that the trauma of that rape and the ensuing trial had on her. The title relates to a comment made by a police officer who told Sebold that she was "lucky" as the previous rape victim in the area had been murdered and dismembered. Lucky brought recognition from many organizations that support and represent victims of violence and sexual crimes.

In 2002, her second book The Lovely Bones became an number one best-seller and immediate success. She received praise from numerous authors including Anna Quindlen.

The Lovely Bones is planned to be presented as a motion picture under the direction of Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings) with a planned December, 2007 release.

Sebold married novelist Glen David Gold in 2001, The two met while they were in the prestigious MFA fiction writing program at UC, Irvine. She now lives in California.

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