The Lovely Bones – Chapter One

This post will give you an overview of chapter one of The Lovely Bones.

In this chapter, Susie Salmon introduces herself and gives readers the details of her murder. It was 1973 and she was 14 years old when she took a shortcut home from school through the cornfield behind the junior high. It was already dark, because it was December and it was winter. In 1973, people still believed things like raping and murdering a young girl didn’t happen and Susie even at 14, would still be rather naïve and not as mature as girls are today.

Susie wasn’t paying much attention and was startled when Mr. Harvey, her neighbour, spoke to her. Susie spoke to him and she was surprised that he knew her name, because no one in the neighbourhood ever really knew him. Her father had spoken to him once, but they had never socialised as such.

Mr. Harvey lures her into a hiding place he’s made in the ground, and Susie goes inside with him. He offers her a Coke and convinces her to take off her parka. When she becomes nervous and tries to leave, he blocks the entrance with his body. She tells us that she fought as hard as she could, but it just wasn’t enough. At the time, she says this must be the worst thing in the world to have a sweating man on top of you and be trapped inside the earth with no one knowing where you are. She pleads with him over and over, but he finally keeps her quiet  by stuffing the hat with bells her mother had made her into her mouth. The only sound she made after that was the “weak tinkling of bells.” She knows he is going to kill her, especially when he reaches for the knife on the ledge with his razor and shaving cream. He makes her say that she loves him, and she does do that, hoping he might let her go but “the end comes anyway.”

After Mr. Harvey rapes Susie, he stabs her to death and then cuts her body into pieces, inadvertently leaving behind her elbow, which is later brought home by the Gilberts’ dog.

In heaven, Susie reveals several things leading to her death that she should have noticed at the time. For example, she remembers there had been the scent of cologne in the air as she walked through the field. That should have made her more careful. Also, the fact that Mr. Harvey knows her name should have raised her suspicions. She enters the hiding place and doesn’t ask herself why a grown man would have such a place. He tells her he had built it for the neighbourhood kids and she knows he is lying, but just feels sorry for him for his loneliness. Finally, Susie is amazed that he has lantern inside the hiding place as well as his razor and his shaving cream. She just puts this down to his oddness – her father had once told his family that Mr. Harvey was harmless, just a “character” – and doesn’t hear any warning bells. Now, we know that he was preparing himself for her murder.

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