Family Relations in Novels by Sebold and Haddon


A family is an important unit that has a great impact on social relations and society in general. In the novel Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and The Lovely Bones, the authors portray modern families and their intimate relations. Family functions, marital roles, kinship rules, and parenting are also some of the family characteristics that can easily point out a family’s problems.

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Thesis The authors depict complicated family relations between the protagonists and exaggerate negative aspects of communication typical for modern families.

A single-parent family

Sebold portrays a traditional family where the father remains to be the main breadwinner of the family. The main problem for Abigail Salmon is that her dreams did not come true: she had three children but only Lindsey was a ‘planned child’. Sebold depicts a modern family where both parents – the father and the mother provide for the family’s needs. In contrast, Haddon depicts a single-parent family, where a father takes care of a mentally ill child, Christopher. “Father came home from work. He runs a business and he does heating maintenance and boiler repair” (Haddon, p. 22). In a wide social context, the authors demonstrate that families cannot cope with the complexity of the world and stressful situations which cause anxiety and separation. Stress and social instability can be seen as one of the most important social problems which is difficult to identify, but which has a great impact on society and the family. Sebold and Haddon demonstrate that the mental well-being and unity of the family are more difficult to define and protect.

Sebold and Haddon portray complicated family relations where a mother separates from her family. It is possible to say that a family is simply beyond the traditional gender roles of father and mother as part of the providers of the family. The only big difference between the novels is that Christopher tries to reunite with his mother, while in The Lovely Bones the death of Susie causes separation and alienation of all family members. Christopher questions the death of his mother: “But did he give her stress so that she died of a heart attack” (Haddon, p. 58). In general, the authors underline the changes in husband-wife roles, household, child-rearing, parent-child relationships, family, and policy issues have seen a greater change. Such demands have considered familial responsibilities a burden which has created a negative consequence for many average families in the world. Sebold portrays that a mother separates from the family looking for her destiny. “That same week she found work at the Krusoe Winery, in a valley above the bay. She wrote my sister and brother postcards filled with the bright fragments” (Sebold, p. 63). Susie’s death forces the mother to move to California. For women who leave their families behind, they may either wish for their families to move with them, or in some cases, it may make the woman disillusioned with her former society in which one felt great repression and the likelihood of abandoning the immediate family could come into the picture.


In sum, Sebold and Haddon portray that a complicated concept of the family is influenced by personal troubles and social problems. They demonstrate that the family unit becomes an institution that supports society, defines how people think about one another, formalizes contact with families, neighborhoods, employers, insurers, hospitals, governments. In both novels, the family becomes a mirror of social problems which has a significant influence on family relations and social interaction.


  1. Sebold, A. The Lovely Bones. Little, Brown and Company, 2002.
  2. Haddon, M. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Doubleday; Today Show Book Club, 2003.
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