The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - A High School Essay in an Exam
This is one of the essay questions I was asked in an exam and below I have included how such a question could be answered. Pleas note that this work is my own and if you wish to use this as a reference, please just let me know. This paper has achieved with merit. (70-89%)
QUESTION: The 'how' of a novel - the style in which it is written - can be said to be equally as important as the 'who' or the 'what'.
To what extent do you agree with this view? Respond to this question with close reference to one or more novels you have studied.
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold is a novel in which the style of the novel and how it is written is equally as important as who the characters are and what the characters represent.
The Bildungsroman starts off with a mini prologue which introduces us to a penguin in a snow globe, the main character Susie Salmon and her father Jack. "trapped in a perfect world" is how Jack describes the penguin's life yet Susie is not convinced by this idea. The effect this mini prologue should have on the reader is to make the reader see the entrapment of a penguin through the eyes of both characters. To one, it is but a perfect world and to the other, it is trapped and cannot escape.
The narrator of the novel is Susie and she is quite a unique narrator as she is dead "I was murdered by a man from our neighbourhood." The style of the first setence is similar to that found on a tombstone " My name was Salmon, like the fish, first name Susie." This sentence contains the word 'was' which either indicates Susie may be married as thus no longer a Salmon or dead. The style of writing that Sebold has done makes the reader curious about Susie "if they give you lined paper, write the other way" as she is made as she is made, both believable and child-like. As the novel progresses, one can see that Susie is not an ordinary narrator, but an omniscient one "he built a balsa wood stand which would later replace me." Omniscience is also known as the third eye of God, and this implies all seeing and all knowing which has the effect Sebold wanted to explore. Susie's experience of rape "he was the mortar and I was the pestle" is an obscene and cruel sense of humor yet it is how the author felt when she was raped,which was put into a biography called Lucky.
"And that was when I decided to tell my story" tells the reader that up until that point, the omniscient narrator had been looking back on her experience and recounting the memories. Susie's name has been shortened from Suzanne, a more mature and stable name, but to emphasize Susie's child-like nature, Susie was her nickname. The author needed to show how Susie was able to 'grow up' in heaven and achieve her dreams even though she could not do that in her short life on Earth.
Abigail Salmon's character is well structured to suit the style of the novel. A happily married woman with three kids and an English degree, Abigail has everything she could ever want. Abigail's character is well read and yet hides a mysterious side behind those "Ocean Eyes." After Susie's death, Abigail had an affair to "find a way out of her ruined heart in merciful adultery." She is presented as a flawed character, like all of the other characters who each have a weakness which makes them vulnerable. Sebold's style of writing about Abigail depicts her as a seemingly "desperate housewife" living in a suburban American society. This shows that while she might have everything she could want, there is still an empty space in her life; a void which is waiting to be filled.
Alice Sebold pens a sturdy character who is stable like her, never shortened name. This character is Lindsey Salmon. She is shown to be strong willed and independent "she worked on hardening herself." This character could be seen as the alter ego of the author as Alice Sebold wanted to be strong and stable after her rape incident, yet Sebold was not as strong as Lindsey and showed a resemblance to Abigail in the sense of hiding her pain and humiliation behind a false face.
Therefore I agree that the style of a novel and how it is written is equally important as the character and what they represent. In the bildungsroman The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold, the character of Susie Salmon was the "lovely bones that held the family together" while she represented a character whose innocence was taken from her, and Susie is the written character of the author's reality. Lindsey Salmon is what the author became after dealing with the pain and heartache she endured; strong willed and independent. Alice Sebold hid her pain behind a false face like the character of Abigail Salmon, which the character represented after the rape but before the healing. A piece of the author, Alice Sebold, reflects in the characters she creates, and the way in which each character deals with death and grief can be based on the Kubler-Ross model, which was developed by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, defining the five stages of grief. Each character dealt with the grief and overcame it in the end "once the living are done with the dead, they move onto other things," and gave the reader a sense of closure to know that both the living and the dead are able to move on.