The Lovely Bones


Alice Sebold

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Lovely Bones, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Justice and Injustice

The opening chapters of Alice Sebold’s novel The Lovely Bones depict a graphic and despicable act of violence. Mr. George Harvey, who lives across the street from the Salmon family, is a killer of girls and women, and he has selected fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon as his next victim. One evening, as Susie walks home from school through a cornfield, Mr. Harvey lures Susie into an underground structure he has built, describing it to her…

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Tragedy, Grief, Alienation, and Isolation

Susie Salmon’s unjust and tragic death sends a shockwave through her quaint and quiet hometown of Norristown, PA. In its wake, divisions rip through the community, and the Salmon family in particular becomes isolated from their friends and neighbors as the investigation into Susie’s murder drags on. As Sebold examines the alienating effects of grief and loss, she argues that suffering a tragedy is deeply isolating. The tragedy Susie endures tears her away from…

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Love and Sex

Susie Salmon’s murder is directly preceded by a gruesome rape at the hands of George Harvey, a neighbor and acquaintance of her parents. At fourteen, Susie had been on the verge of coming into her own as a young woman: she had developed feelings for a classmate, Ray Singh, and privately nursed a crush on the singer David Cassidy of The Partridge Family. Susie’s transition into the world of love—and indeed…

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Family and Community

The Salmon family is the heart and soul of the narrative of The Lovely Bones. Over the course of the novel, readers follow the Salmon family over the span of nearly a decade. Through Susie’s eyes, readers observe the family’s most intimate moments, their struggles with one another and the world around them, their failures and triumphs, their connections and breakdowns. The idea of family, though, is complicated on several levels. Susie’s “family”…

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Desire and Longing

The characters in The Lovely Bones are defined by their desires: Susie, from heaven, longs for her family and friends back on earth, while Susie’s family longs for their beloved daughter and sister; Abigail longs for Len, while Jack longs for Abigail; even Mr. Harvey is filled with a dark, evil, insatiable longing for connection and for dominance. In her exploration of the different kinds of desire and longing—for truth, for home, and…

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