The Lovely Bones


Alice Sebold

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Lovely Bones can help.

The Lovely Bones: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Susie describes Mr. Harvey’s nightly dreams of buildings in the three months following her murder. He dreams of thatched-roof dwellings in Yugoslavia, wooden stave churches in Norway, and the Church of the Transfiguration from Vologda in Russia. Mr. Harvey’s dream of the Church is his favorite, and it is the one he has on the night of Susie’s murder. These are “still” dreams, and he experiences them for a long while, until another kind of dream—“not still” dreams of women and children—returns to him.
Mr. Harvey’s obsession with structure and architecture is a metaphor for the carefully-structured, meticulously-arranged façade of his life and personality. As Mr. Harvey’s cycles of restlessness and desire spin on and on, his attempts to comfort himself with thoughts and dreams of the physical manifestation of his carefully-executed control mechanisms begin to break down and fail.
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Susie can see the whole of Mr. Harvey’s life, all the way back to his childhood. Mr. Harvey, as a child in his mother’s arms, sorts colored glass with his father, a former jeweler. As a child, when others asked Mr. Harvey what his father did, he answered “a builder,” leaving out the fact that his father built “shacks of broken glass and old wood.”
The details of Harvey’s life that Susie is able to access through her omniscience are strange and dreamlike in quality. It is hard to know what is real and not real, and hard to understand what kind of world Harvey really comes from.
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
When the “not still” dreams come back, Mr. Harvey turns to his father’s old sketchbooks, trying to “steep himself” in pictures of other places and worlds. In trying to ward off the not still dreams, Harvey begins to dream of his mother the last time he had seen her. She was dressed in white, running through a field on the side of the road after a fight in the New Mexico desert—George Harvey’s father had forced his mother out of the car, and she had run away without stopping. Harvey and his father had watched the road, and Mr. Harvey’s father explained that his mother was gone and would not be coming back.
Mr. Harvey turns his conscious thoughts to calming things in an attempt to stave off his impulses toward violence. His dreams and subconscious take hold of him anyway, however, and reveal an incident from his past which, though communicated only vaguely, seems to hint at a major loss and an atmosphere of strife and even violence in his childhood.
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon