The Lovely Bones

Susie’s Photographs Symbol Analysis

Susie’s Photographs Symbol Icon

Susie is an omniscient narrator, able to see not just the actions of her friends and family back on earth, but also to intuit their hopes, dreams, fears, and motivations. In her life on Earth, Susie—an aspiring wildlife photographer—used her camera, a gift from her parents, to take photos of everyone and everything. When used at precisely the right moments, her camera allowed her to access a sliver of her soon-to-be heavenly powers, and capture the depths of someone’s soul. For example, one morning, Susie stumbles upon her mother Abigail, who has not yet dressed or put on her makeup, sitting alone on the porch. Susie sees her mother not as just a mother, but as a woman full of mystery and depth, and in the instant she takes the photograph of her, Susie attempts to capture the moment forever while simultaneously drawing her mother out of it through the click of the shutter. In a section of the book entitled “Snapshots,” Susie, from heaven, describes the moments she glimpses as the years pass—time on Earth is spinning forward, but Susie, in heaven, is stuck with just moments snatched from on high. Just as on Earth, Susie is able to witness—but not partake of or ever fully capture—the moments, feelings, and choices that will come to define her family’s lives. Her photographs, then, become a recurring symbol of this tension and futility, and represent the vast gulf between the inner and outer lives of a person. Susie, on Earth and in heaven, is an observer by nature, but even with her heavenly gift of total surveillance, there remains something unknowable and elusive about the lives of humans.

Susie’s Photographs Quotes in The Lovely Bones

The The Lovely Bones quotes below all refer to the symbol of Susie’s Photographs. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Back Bay edition of The Lovely Bones published in 2002.
Chapter 3 Quotes

When the roll came back from the Kodak plant in a special heavy envelope, I could see the difference immediately. There was only one picture in which my mother was Abigail. It was that first one, the one taken of her unawares, the one captured before the click startled her into the mother of the birthday girl, owner of the happy dog, wife to the loving man, and mother again to another girl and a cherished boy. Homemaker. Gardener. Sunny neighbor. My mother's eyes were oceans, and inside them there was loss. I thought I had my whole life to understand them, but that was the only day I had. Once upon Earth I saw her as Abigail, and then I let it slip effortlessly back, my fascination held in check by wanting her to be that mother and envelop me as that mother.

Related Characters: Susie Salmon (speaker), Abigail Salmon
Related Symbols: Susie’s Photographs
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
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Snapshots Quotes

Years passed. The trees in our yard grew taller. I watched my family and my friends and neighbors, the teachers whom I'd had or imagined having, the high school I had dreamed about. As I sat in the gazebo I would pretend instead that I was sitting on the topmost branch of the maple under which my brother had swallowed a stick and still played hide-and-seek with Nate, or I would perch on the railing of a stairwell in New York and wait for Ruth to pass near. I would study with Ray. Drive the Pacific Coast Highway on a warm afternoon of salty air with my mother. But I would end each day with my father in his den. I would lay these photographs down in my mind, those gathered from my constant watching, and I could trace how one thing—my death—connected these images to a single source. No one could have predicted how my loss would change small moments on Earth. But I held on to those moments, hoarded them. None of them were lost as long as I was there watching.

Related Symbols: Susie’s Photographs
Page Number: 230-231
Explanation and Analysis:
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Susie’s Photographs Symbol Timeline in The Lovely Bones

The timeline below shows where the symbol Susie’s Photographs appears in The Lovely Bones. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...she had asked for. Susie took the camera, loaded it with film, and immediately began photographing a neighbor through the blinds. Susie ran to the back of the house, hoping to... (full context)
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...not of the color of her mother’s eyes but of their depths. Susie took a photograph of her mother, wanting to preserve the sensation of seeing her in this new light.... (full context)
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...bedroom. She touches Susie’s things, examining her clothes and her pin collection, before finding the photo of Abigail tucked beneath a tray on Susie’s dresser. Susie, from heaven, is slightly sad—she... (full context)
Chapter 12
Justice and Injustice Theme Icon
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Love and Sex Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...mother and Len converse, she sees her as the version of her mother from the photograph—the version of her mother who had never had Susie, Lindsey, and Buckley. Abigail asks Len... (full context)
Snapshots
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
Susie reflects on her great passion in life—photography. She took so many photographs that Jack would make her choose which rolls she wanted... (full context)
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...loved on Earth. She hoards the quiet moment she observes just as she hoarded her photographs back on Earth. (full context)
Chapter 17
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
...and Grandma Lynn are still downstairs. Buckley leaves, and Jack flips through a stack of photos—the last of Susie’s film, which he recently developed. Looking through old photographs of Abigail, he... (full context)
Chapter 23
Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation Theme Icon
Family and Community Theme Icon
Desire and Longing Theme Icon
...persisting in her love for her dead daughter will not destroy her. Abigail notices a photograph on the dresser, and takes a closer look—it is the picture Susie took of her... (full context)