The novel The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold depicts events and memories form the life of the author. The author creates a dramatic plot based on real-life events, feelings, and emotions. The social and personal morals of people are depicted through emotional sufferings and the experience of the main heroes of the novel.
Through the main character of a raped and murdered girl, Susie Salmon, Alice Sebold tells readers about the role and meaning of forgiveness and confession in our life and destiny. Thesis the novel vividly portrays that forgiveness and confession are a vital part of human life because they help to relief grief, emotional tension, and overcome anger.
The novel describes the story of a girl who watches from the heavens how her family tries to cope with their grief and tragedy. Readers explore this situation largely through Susie Salmon, and through which readers participate in the novel.
Though the narrative and making skillful use of changing perspectives, The Lovely Bones is very much Susie’s story, as she turns uneasily between the two poles, her Earth existence and life on the heavens. The idea of forgiveness is closely connected with the idea of God and religious values. Through the character of Susie Salmon, Alice Sebold states that if God forgives us, he expects us to do the same in our turn.
Forgiveness implies favor and remission of punishment. You may be in favor and yet be punished or be excused punishment though not in favor. Robertson concludes of God’s forgiveness that salvation is love and an unforgiving, vindictive heart puts itself in hell.
By now, it should be apparent that divine and human forgiveness are not simple matters. “The guilt on him, the hand of God pressing down on him” (Sebold 54). Alice Sebold requires forgiveness; it is a principal virtue. But divine and, by extension, human forgiveness is provisional.
The forgiven must act likewise and be forgiving. Moreover, to be forgiven, one must first acknowledge the fault. Alice Sebold writes: “My God in Heaven, Praise the Lord, yes” (Sebold 97).
In the novel, forgiveness is not merely a moral but also a religious duty. It is a duty for a Jew to forgive one of his faith. Sebold underlines that all men are brothers and thus potentially deserving of our forgiveness. The example of Susie’s mercy demonstrates that Christ did not invent forgiveness; he simply emphasized its central role in the new faith.
What is significant about Susie’s forgiveness is his conscious rejection of the role of avenger. Susie rejects vengeance sincerely, forgoing vengeance only because it assumes that punishment will be affected by some other agent. Susie forgave because she understood how good could come out of evil. And so she forgot the injury (Viner 2002). It is possible to forgive and not forget, but the best forgiveness forgets the offense.
If there is some obscurity remaining in effect upon others of our granting forgiveness, there is some also on the effect in ourselves. It is our duty to be selfless and humble and to forgive the penitent. Forgiveness is apparent in the style and tone used by the authors. She does not attack the murderer but depicts a story of Susie’s life and destiny:
My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer. My murderer believed in old-fashioned things like eggshells and coffee grounds, which he said his own mother had used” (Sebold 2).
The physiological value is added through an unsound state of public morals depicted in the novel. Also, Alice Sebold, without a scorching rebuke, selects such crimes and invests them with all the fascination of genius, and all the charms of a highly polished style.
Alice Sebold is not just invoking sin and guilt in bits and pieces. Now there surfaced the long interior conflict between natural respect for the past and his equal abhorrence of its cruelty (Buchsbaum 2007).
Scrupulousness about human charity has another face in The Lovely Bones, and the shape of the narrative, its locating of critical, even pivotal scenes, follows from the extension or withholding of forgiveness.
Using the characters of Ray Singh, the only boy who kisses Susie, Lindsey Salmon, her sister, and Clarissa, Susie’s friend, Alice Sebold portrays that humans cannot forgive sin; they can release others only from some injury to themselves. “The novel hinges on all these characters’ expectations and how those expectations are shattered by one afternoon’s event” (Buchsbaum 2007).
A modern reader less sensitive to the charged religious emotion of this scene might easily miss its enormous power and, therefore, equally, overlook the significance of the scene where a Susie does ask forgiveness (Viner 2002).
The compulsion for moral closure may seem a narrative crudity, but given what Alice Sebold is trying to achieve with the moral economy of the novel, such narrative strategies are fitting. The narrative voice is needed to create emotional and psychological tension, the magical voice with its special effects of personification, metaphor, simile, allusion, and so forth.
When all the justice available has been doled out, the narrator himself erases the boundary between life and fiction with the concluding line of the novel. “I realized then they would not know when I was gone” (Sebold 164). With that line, this tale is told, and the narrator evaporates because the distribution of justice is complete.
There is no other reason to end this tale here, just as in life, there is no reason to draw a boundary between one moment and the next. Alice Sebold underlines that deep expectation is met when some need is gratified. It is not merely the death that makes this stage of the life journey an appropriate one at which to pause.
The narrative ends here because the antagonistic forces of good and evil that it has generated have been brought back to a state of justice through the apportioning of punishment and charity. This novel reflects the view of religious faith and man’s relationship with his maker.
The ideas of forgiveness and confession relate to a mystery novel portraying a spirit as an actual person who is able to forgive and forget the sins of other people. To do this, Alice Sebold creates the fable of a spirit stronger than any human whose authority extends back before human life began and onward beyond its end.
According to Alice Sebold, society lives in an atmosphere inevitably tainted with the need for various forms of punishment, both material and subjective. But a society based upon proliferating punishments also requires the meek emollient of forgiveness.
At the primitive level, punishment may be nothing more than a form of retaliation. This is also the basis of the injury responding to injury. The punishment is equivalent to the offense. But there are crimes for which an equivalent punishment is impossible.
Forgiveness and confession is an integral part of Susie and her personality. Alice Sebold shows that a simple accusation for a person is enough to be admitted of guilt, even if this guile cannot be proved. The theme of solitude creates a feeling of guilt as a result of low morals.
Despite her efforts to escape the rituals of society, Susie seems fated to reenact them, even though, as Alice Sebold recounts these scenes and revises their conventions. Susie’s painful alienation is a sort of low moral of the society and its cruelty. ‘Society,’ which seems solid, secure is, in fact, an imaginative construct created by its inhabitants: the gossips and the poor relations.
The other side of heroes’ terror of solitude, however, is the bondage of class as well as gender that keeps them in a prison of the self. In the novel, Alice Sebold creates explicit forgiveness, which is integrated into the work. The author underlines that it is possible and desirable to create new laws and values because the new environment forces people to change their personal priorities and morals.
Forgiveness and confession should become a kind of religion preached by citizens, which affected their moral visions, economics, politics, and culture. This means that citizens will necessarily express their religious and religiously-grounded moral beliefs in their everyday actions (Buchsbaum 2007).
Readers enjoy reading about forgiveness and confession because Alice Sebold unveils these themes through false and low morals of the society, treatment of people, and their relations with each other. Alice Sebold portrays that every person is a patient sufferer who can do nothing to protect herself. Everything about the world is central to Sebol’s interior life.
The author associates low morals with a feeling of guilt and shame. Sebold teaches the alienation of the human heart from its divine father. Sebold also teaches the unsatisfying nature of human happiness. And most certainly, Sebold teaches the readiness of forgiveness to the truly repentant.
Moreover, that forgiveness is forthcoming before repentance takes the form of virtuous behavior. It is forgiveness granted while a man is yet afar off. This means that for forgiveness, a sinner does not have to have achieved virtue, but only to have discovered that he desires it.
Even without overt pain or sorrow, readers feel their own conscience, which makes them yearn for peace. That peace comes when they blame themselves and therefore have hope to mend. To blame oneself, of course, is not enough. There is obviously a strong connection between justice and mercy or pardon and between punishment and forgiveness (Bressler 43).
In sum, Alice Sebold depicts that it is wrong for society to follow blindly old traditions and morals, which cause sufferings to innocent people. In either case, the social arena becomes a battleground, where fundamental values of family and love are denied, and society turns into a crowd of cruel and heartless individuals dazzled by “personal morality.”
Forgiveness and confession are the only things that help a person to overcome grief and return to a normal life. Alice Sebold’s mastery of such details is consummate, as befits someone deeply versed in the then comparatively new discipline of social anthropology.
It is assumed that everyone knows what ‘virtue’ is but that no-one will blow the whistle so long as the proprieties are observed. As in the novel, life is shown to be a perpetual observance of rites in which nothing much happens, but everything has meaning and consequences. Alice Sebold offers a way of understanding how a religion of forgiveness can be reconciled with the practice of punishment.
Buchsbaum, T. Voices from Beyond. 2007.
Bressler, Ch. F. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. Prentice Hall; 4th edition, 2006.
Sebold, A. The Lovely Bones. Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition, 2002.
Viner, Katharine; “Above and Beyond” The Guardian. August 24, 2002, F5.