The Lovely Bones Literary Devices

The novel “Lovely Bones” is authored by Alice Sebold. It was published in the year 2002. The story depicts a strong imagery of heavenly physical world and after life. It contains the unique narrative and evocative themes.

The novel also explores the consequences of the murder of a young girl from multiple points of view. Firstly, it shows the impact on her family and friends. Then, it furnishes the viewpoint of the victim. She describes the story from her personal heaven. The unique style of the novel compel the writer to delve into deep emotions and societal issues.

Short Summary of The Lovely Bones

The story starts with a horrific act of rape and murder of a young girl named Susie Salmon by her neighbor, George Harvey.

Susie is in heaven now and she oversees her family and friends suffering from the loss of their beloved member.

Her paradise is not general or generic; it is her paradise, which she has invented for herself despite the oppressive system. From this vantage point, Susie witnesses the struggles of her family: her parents suffer through their marriage as they grieve over their daughter’s death.

In a way, Susie’s memory is still palpable, and the people she left behind still bear the imprint of her existence. Jack, the father of the murdered girl, becomes obsessed with finding the murderer, while Abigail, the mother, shuts herself off physically and mentally and later abandons the family.

The plot of the novel expands to cover Susie’s friends and how they survived their teenage years without her. Gradually, Susie’s family begins the process of recovery and learns how to carry the loss with them without forgetting Susie.

Even after the death of Susie, their victim, the psychopath George Harvey, who raped and killed Susie, is presented as a man who keeps on living while being a fugitive. At the end of the novel, Susie gains the knowledge that her family is fine and leaves her mark on their lives to help them heal.

Literary Devices in The Lovely Bones

1- Narrative Perspective

“I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer.”

Here, the use of “I” and “my” elucidates that Susie is narrating her own story. The choice of narrative perspective develops a personal and close connection with the reader. This makes the experiences and feelings of Susie more related.

Through telling out her murder and other incidences in details, Susie gives an eye witness account of what befell her. This makes the story more compelling as the readers get a direct evidence of the tragic events.

The internal monologue of Susie provides the readers with ample insight into her mind. For instance, she catches herself thinking about her mother who liked the flowers the murderer sent her or her father talking to him regarding fertilizer.

These small details contribute to paint a picture of her life and how much the things that happened were just part and parcel of what constituted as normalcy in her life.

2- Symbolism

“Now I am in the air over a cornfield. I sway between the stalks and I am not sure whether I am going up or coming down, but I am in the air, still a child, always a child. The train had gone by and made the ground shake. The bushes and trees trembled as if they knew. My charm bracelet jangled as my arm moved.”

The charm bracelet symbolizes the childhood of Susie and the life she left behind. All pieces of bracelet are meant to reflect various parts of her life and the purity she lost.

The bracelet is the symbol of Susie and her history, her family, and the experiences she has gone through. It helps her family to have something that can be associated with her, and it is a constant reminder of her life before she died.

In the end, the beauty of the bracelet is memorized in her family and is actually the embodiment of the memories about Susie. In this way, conversation portrait is a poignant consolation, reminding them of her presence and their love for her.

3- Foreshadowing

“I was aware that Mr. Harvey was looking at me strangely. I had no reason to be frightened—I was fourteen, and he was an old neighbor. But I felt a shiver run through me.”


Susie’s words ‘Mr. Harvey was looking at me strangely’ indicates that something is going wrong with him. Speaking of his character, this can be viewed as the beginning which leads to his future actions and a tragedy.

This is the hint of danger that Susie is noting. It suggests what many American women are likely to face in the hands of Mr. Harvey in the near future.

There is also an element of vulnerability that will later lead her into the hands of Mr. Harvey, something that is evident in Susie when she has no fear because she is young, and relies on a neighbor.

This innocence makes the reader open-eyed to the impending danger that was indeed lurking just around the corner.

Introducing these kinds of elements and feeling uneasy today, she carefully sows seeds of suspicion and prepares the reader for tragedy.

This just creates a feeling or some doubt in the reader’s mind that perhaps Mr. Harvey is not just harmless.

4- Imagery

“When I first entered heaven, I thought everyone saw what I saw: the field of yellow flowers in the distance, the girl on the swing, the thick roll of clouds at the rim of the sky. It took me awhile to realize that my heaven might be different from someone else’s.”

The author paints a vivid picture while describing the heaven of Susie. These include the field of yellow flowers, the girl on the swing, the thick roll of clouds. All give an idealized scene that the reader can visualize easily.

When everybody watched Susie die, it was truly a violent scene, yet in her heaven there is more tranquility and elegance.

This was done to create a reassuring point, counterpoint to which heightens the emotional elements of the tale. This inevitably contributes to the concept of Susie’s heaven as completely individual and free from impact by outside forces; it draws fully from her own psyche and selfishness.

5- Flashbacks

“Before my mother had the affair, before my sister’s eyes turned cold to my father and me, and before my father started building ships in bottles, we were a family. We had a lovely, snug house with a dark green door. My mother’s gardens were a jumble of color. My sister, Lindsey, and I played in the yard. My brother, Buckley, was a baby.”

The passage conveys the information about the family members of Susie prior to her death. It describes a content moment the family once had.

It usefully expands the characters’ backstory owing to the focus on past actions and interactions. It presents several alterations in the conduct of family members, for example, the unfriendliness that surfaces in Lindsey and the withdraw symptoms visible in Susie’s dad.

The flashback juxtaposes an idealized past as warm and united with the present time as shattered. It also emphasizes the tragedy of Susie’s death for her family.

The description of the “lovely, snug house” and the “jumble of color” in the gardens brings some feeling of past and the loss. The perspective of the character shows that the reader is experiencing the depth of what the family lost.

6- Irony

“Their house sat back from the road, and its yard looked exactly like every other neighbor’s yard—manicured, with flower beds blooming, birdbaths in the shape of small wishing wells, and neat little hedges that separated it from the yards next door.”

The irony lies in relation to the physical appearance and the true nature of Mr. Harvey. His house and yard are portrayed as neat and well-maintained.

The nice look and cleanliness of the yard make the neighborhood safe and non-desirable appearances. This is quite paradoxical since the story tells that being in a large office, away from home is actually where Mr. Harvey carries out his terrible act.

The manicured lawn reflects tidiness, and birdbaths are associated with a sense of quiet orderliness and civility, hiding the evil inside.

This deception plays an additive effect to the horror of Mr. Harvey character given that he briefly abandons the monstrous looking façade and in civilian disguise he is normal and is thus able to disguise his intentions.

See also: The Road Literary Devices

7- Motifs

“I watched my family these evenings after they had changed their clothes and brushed their teeth. When the house was quiet, they felt safe enough to cry. My father would go to the den and shut the door. He cried there. My mother would go to the garden and lie down on the grass. My sister went to her bedroom and turned on her radio. Each of them, alone, in their own space.”

The motif indicates the few special spaces that the characters seek to escape to as they deal with their loss and other feeling. Using the motif of loneliness, there is a focus on the fact that all the close ones feel lonely after such a tragic loss as Susie.

The refuges are the places where they feel confident in a painful situation. It reveals their identities and stresses on their isolation and disconnection, which is so characteristic of grief.

It also indicates how each of the characters deal with loss; the creation of these safe places for the characters to retreat to.

The den, garden, and the bedroom turn into their personal havens where they can get rid of the surrounding hysteria and at least attain some measure of tranquility.

8- Metaphors

“Because horror on Earth is real and it is every day. It is like a flower or like the sun; it cannot be contained.”

The author uses the metaphor of horror to show that it is everywhere and cannot be escaped. Horror, like flowers blooming, the rising of the sun, it is forever present on the surface of the Earth.

The references made to fire, water, earth, and air are simply impossible to confine pointing to the fact that horror is innate. It implies that no matter how much you try to avoid it or even flee from it, horror will anyway surface in one way or another.

The flower and the sun show the beauty and the positivity in everyday life. By comparing horror to these elements, Sebold alludes to the fact that horror is not what awes or scares one in a seemingly ‘safe’ environment at first glance but rather it is unexpected and often concealed.

See also: The Century Quilt Literary Devices

Themes in The Lovely Bones

Grief and Healing

A key theme in the novel is how people deal with the situation of grief and loss. The writer indicates the family of Salmon, mourning in a raw and honest way, capturing its complexities and stages.

Each member of the family reacts differently to the death of Susie. It emphasizes the individual nature of grief.

Jack becomes obsessed on finding the killer of Susie. Abigail withdraws emotionally. Lindsey remains strong and Buckley faces confusion and anger. This represents various responses to their shared tragedy.

The Afterlife and Spirituality

The afterlife portrayal is another important theme. The heaven of Susie is a unique space that changes after she comes to terms with her death.

This depiction questions traditional ideas of heaven and shows it as a place shaped by personal wishes and unresolved issues. The novel encourages the readers to think about the possibilities of life after death.

Justice and Injustice

The novel also inspects the themes of justice and the gap between doing what is morally right and legally resolved.

The killer of Susie avoids being caught and punished. This situation adds the feelings of injustice and anger for Susie family and the readers.

The writer employs these themes to show the gaps in the legal system and the idea that true justice is not possible in a usual way.

Family and Relationships

The interconnection within the Salmon family and their relationships with others are significant. The story explores how a destructive event can break and strengthen the family bonds.

It also reflects the durability and the importance of supporting each other through inconceivable hardships.

Memory and Legacy

Memory and legacy are important themes in the novel. The presence of Susie in the lives of her loved ones indicates that how memories shape us.

The novel explores the impact of a person on the world and how their memory inspires strength, change and healing.

The Lovely Bones Literary Devices
The Lovely Bones Literary Devices

To conclude, the novel is a masterful mixture of emotional storytelling and sophisticated literary devices. The themes of grief, healing, justice, family and the memory have been portrayed with sensitivity and depth. All these themes make the story a compelling and enduring work of contemporary literature. The author skillfully utilizes the literary devices not only to enhance the narrative but also to invite the readers to engage with the story on a profound emotional and intellectual level.

See also: Literary Devices in The Hill We Climb

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *