The Lovely Bones and Beloved

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A comparison of the ways that the dead affect the living in the novels Beloved by Toni Morrison and The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold.

In the novels that I have chosen to study, several themes are prominent in both. Both novels deal with a brutal murder of a young female, and the impact surrounding her death. They also deal with the idea of the dead, directly or indirectly communicating with the living. The novels address the theory that ‘ghosts’ cannot move onto the next life until they have resolved unfinished business on Earth. The idea that the living are tied to those who die and untimely death is also present in both novels. As well as these themes which are present in both novels, the novels also share a similar non linear narrative

The Lovely Bones explores two levels of death - both those that are left behind and the departed. Sebold uses the omniscient first person narrator, of the young Suzie Salmon a fourteen year old brutally raped and murdered very early on in the novel. Through the narrator, Sebold expresses her own beliefs, in heaven and our own life process. Through Suzie’s new position in heaven we see her observing the family which she has left behind, and the impact her life has had on them as well as the whole community. Throughout the novel we are taken back to time before her death and major events that happened to her. This structure is very similar to that of Beloved. Beloved is written in an experimental structure. It is not a linear tale, told from beginning to end. It is a story encompassing levels of past, from the slave ship to Sweet home, as well as the present. Sometimes the past is told in flashbacks, sometimes in stories, and sometimes it is plainly told, as if it were happening in the present (with the highly unusual use of the present tense). The novel is, in essence, written in fragments, pieces shattered and left for the reader to place together. The juxtaposition of past with present serves to reinforce the idea that the past is alive in the present. Unlike The lovely Bones, Beloved does not have a single narrator. Every character, even the dead ones, tells parts of the tale.

In both novels, the living are greatly affected by the loss that they faced. It is however not only that fact that they have lost someone, but the aftermath and the affect that the dead is still having on them. Both explore the supernatural, the sense that being dead does ultimately not stop you from communicating with these that you left behind. The difference between the two scenarios is that, in Beloved at first it is the ‘ghost’ of the dead which affects them, followed on to be it is the physical appearance of the dead reincarnated. While in The Lovely Bones it is the emotional affect that the dead have on the living that affects them and their situation. In Beloved, Sethe’s house, 124, is haunted by the presence of what she believes to be her daughter, Beloved, who she murdered nineteen years previously. Later in the novel, Beloved seems to appear at her home and begins a relationship with her and her remaining daughter, Denver. It is left up to the reader to decide whether it is in fact the murdered Beloved, or an imposter. While in The Lovely Bones, the murdered Suzie Salmon on takes on human form only briefly, the majority of the time she is in her heaven observing the world below. She affects her family and friends by placing ideas in their heads and conveying her own knowledge surrounding her death to them through thought. A difference between the novels is the space of time between death and their affect on the living. In The Lovely Bones, Suzie affects her family and friends instantly, while in Beloved there is a nineteen year gap before Beloved begins to have a true affect on the living. Although her presence had scared off Sethe’s two sons who left 124 because of the ‘ghost’ Beloved seeks Sethe's affections as well as vengeance for a murder she cannot understand. In the novel, she serves both...
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