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ENG LIT Final Assignment - Prose and Mixed Media Essay - The Lovely Bones




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“The Lovely Bones” Literary Piece and Film Comparison
“The Lovely Bones” is a 2002 novel by Alice Sebold in 2009 being turned in a film
adaptation. “The Lovely Bones” is a story about a teenage girl that, after being raped and
murdered, watches from her personal heaven how her family and friends struggle to cope with
her death and how they try to move on with their lives. The novel received instant praise from
the critics and has quickly become a best seller. A film adaptation of the novel was realized
having Peter Jackson as director. This essay will be a clear comparison between the “The Lovely
Bones” literary piece and its cinematic counterpart highlighting the main similarities and
differences between the two works.
Both the book and the film open with the young narrator telling how she was murdered
on December 6, 1973. This is how the audience meets the main character Susie Salmon in the
movie portrayed by Saoirse Ronan. She tells the story of her family and friends after her death.
This is a portrayal of a grieving family seeming to take the form of a dirge for the living. Despite
the fact that is doesn’t seem like it, “The Lovely Bones” is a story about coming of age, both for
Lindsey, Susie’s younger sister, and as well as for Susie herself. The story can be as well
considered a metaphor for the physical disassociation rape victims commonly feel. Alice Sebold,
the author of the story had gone through the unfortunate experience of rape thus having great
insight into the mind of a rape victim.

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Critics say that the film failed to capture the “magic” of the book, receiving mixed and
negative reviews since its premiere. Some critics even say that, there is a major point essential to
Susie’s story and the understanding of it, missing from the film. This criticism refers to the fact
that the movie fails to show that the character George Harvey wasn’t only Susie’s murderer but
also her rapist. In the movie it is only implies that he is a pedophile without showing that Susie
was actually raped by him. Even though most people aren’t interested in seeing a rape scene the
director could have suggested somehow that Harvey himself raped Susie. Also the book
successfully emphasizes Susie’s need to have her family know that she’s watching over them
with the words: “Had my brother really seen me somehow, or he was he merely a little boy
telling beautiful lies?”(Sebold, p.95)
The film version continues with many other flaws in depicting the story from the book.
The movie version of Susie feels life fleeing from her and then grabs onto the top of a flower,
forcing herself into the “In-between”. Alone there she becomes confuse until she meets Holly.
She receives help from Holly to navigate in this new world. There it’s just the two of them in this
world of their making. In contrast, the book version of Susie starts by putting her dismembered
body back together and meeting Franny, her intake specialist and then Holly, her roommate. In
the book Susie’s heaven is inhabited by real men and women who died. All these souls are now
living in infinite overlapping heavens. While the movie remembers some details, specifically that
the women wear gowns, other details like the fact that Holly plays her Saxophone at Evensong,
are forgotten.
The movie version seems to be realized as if someone told the screenwriters the story
rather than letting them to read it for themselves in order to understand why Sebold put many of
the details in. One example of this is the fact that the film remembers that Mr. Harvey uses

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alarms to tell him when to open and close the drapes but fails to link the alarms to Harvey’s
inability to replicate with authenticity the rhythms of suburbia. The lyricism of a heart beating
like a “"hammer against cloth" is also included but to the disappointment of the fans the film
forgets that these words refer to Mr. Harvey right after the rape and never to Susie. Susie heart is
said to have skipped like a rabbit. Despite the fact that these differences between the two
versions seem quite small they eventually add up to a different experience and as a result the
novel and the movie are remembered differently. Most critics say the film was messy but looked
expensive and that the cast was the saving grace. Other notable failing of the film is that it
managed to confuse the timeline of the book with the emphasis going on the character Jack,
played by Mark Wahlberg, and his search for a killer. Indeed the book is more distressing to read
than the film is to watch thus probably the desire to achieve a more reasonable PG rating held the
movie back in some regards.
Sebold’s narrative style often focuses on the distractions of Susie’s mind taking away the
focus from the horrific events that took place. The movie seems devoted in removing every detail
that would jeopardize its PG 13 rating which is seen as a big disadvantage by the critics. The
film’s strong suit is Susie’s perfect world realized with the help of high quality, amazing looking,
visual effects. Saoirse Ronan and Stanley Tucci do a great job playing the roles of Susie and Mr.
Harvey. Of course both the novel and the movie approach the same fundamental themes of loss,
grief, love, acceptance and coming to age. Even though the film version lacks the tone and
complexity that makes Sebold’s novel such a fascinating and rewarding read, taken separate,
without constant comparison to the novel, the film is as good as any of Peter Jackson’s other

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