What’s the relationship between life and death?
A central theme of The Lovely Bones is the relationship between life and death. This is embodied most clearly in the character of Susie Salmon who we watch cross the divide between these two states.
In chapter 3, Ruth tells her mother about a dream that 'seemed too real'. She explains: 'I was crossing through the faculty parking lot, and suddenly, down out of the soccer field, I saw a pale running ghost coming toward me…It was female, I could sense that…It flew up out of the field. Its eyes were hollow. It had a thin white veil over its body, as light as cheesecloth. I could see its face through it, the features coming up through it, the nose, the eyes, the face, the hair.'
View the trailer for the film and try to spot the moment Ruth describes Susie passing her as she moves from life to death.
- How has Peter Jackson, the film's director, chosen to adapt this episode? Why do you think he has changed the details of the experience? What is the effect of the changes?
- How do we understand Susie's after-death ability to watch everyone's life? Do you suspend disbelief and accept her descriptions of heaven and her perspective on the living? Or do you read her account metaphorically as an imaginative recreation of her voice in the minds of her bereaved family?
Consider the portrayal of the after-life in the trailer.
- Is the after-life illustrated in the trailer in ways you had imagined yourself when reading the book? Explain your answer.
- To what extent do our own ideas about life after death affect how we respond both to the book and the film The Lovely Bones?