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Headscratchers / The Lovely Bones

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Literature Examples:

  • Another one from the book: years after her murder, Mr Harvey returns to Susie's old neighborhood; as his car passes by, Susie's psychic classmate, Ruth, sees the spirits of the girls he's murdered, and the shock somehow causes her to switch places with Susie temporarily. Susie seems to be aware she's not going to be on Earth for very long. Rather than tip off the police about the location of the serial killer they've been chasing for years - or talk to her family one last time - she takes the opportunity to have sex with the boy she liked in middle school?! Luckily spirit Ruth doesn't seem to mind her own body being used this way, even though the boy's her best friend and she's a lesbian.
    • This troper interpreted things differently. Susie envied her sister for doing the things that she couldn't, including being with the boy she loved. The whole book is about acceptance, and Susie accepted long ago that Harvey killed her. Plus he got what he deserved at the end. Ruth on the other hand was waiting and watching in heaven where she met with all the girls and women whose presence she felt on Earth. To her it was a fair trade.
      • Speaking of, what's up with Susie being able to possess Ruth in the first place? Could she do that the whole time? Why didn't she do that before? And why only Ruth? In the book, Ruth is explicitly clairvoyant, but prior to the possession scene, this is only alluded to once, in the form of a very vague throwaway line that could have just as easily been describing Ruth as autistic or something.
      • This troper assumes it is because she is clairvoyant, and a matter of things lining up
      • When it happens, Susie says about Ruth "But she was no shadow of a form, no ghost. She was a smart girl breaking all the rules." which suggests that this was Ruth's action, not Susie's. It may have been a combination of Ruth's unusual ability and Susie's need at that moment, and therefore a rare event.
      • While we're on that subject, why didn't Susie tell Ray (or Ruth, for that matter) that her body was in the safe when she knew it was in there- the police were ALREADY searching for Harvey, who hadn't gone that far? I guess making out with Ray was more important?
      • Presumably it was a part of the concept of moving on. Susie spent most of the movie urging her father to get revenge for her death. When it looks like he'd finally get it, he was nearly killed and she had to watch.
      • My issues with that sort of sentiment is twofold: First off, the fact that Harvey wound up getting away and only died due to a freak accident doesn't give proper closure to Susie's family. The fact that they weren't even able to bury their daughter, a basic dignity that should be afforded any grieving parent, was just wrong. So in refusing to actually DO something about the fact that Harvey was within grasp of the law just to fulfill some baser lust, we see Susie acting rather...selfishly. Secondly, accepting a person's death and accepting your own fate is definitely something one should come to terms with, but since when has accepting your death meant that you should disregard the fact that the depraved monster who raped and killed you was right there and could have been apprehended by the law had you acted; especially considering that doing so would have given Susie's family true closure in regards to her death? And finally, how is getting a depraved serial killer arrested "revenge?" Since when has proper justice being exacted counted as "revenge?" Susie's father murdering Harvey with a baseball bat in an act of vigilante rage, yeah...
      • While important not to say every character speaks directly from the author, but this is a bigger point beyond the book. The characters clearly get closure without the need for "justice"/"revenge" and to a lot of people that is the big take away message. The idea that it ticks some people off is certainly not a surprise either. But in a way some of this has some major morality whitewashing to it. Justice and revenge are of course cut from the same cloth, and some people clearly think inflicting more suffering on your suffering is modern reasons to cite proverbs like "an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind" and "people who fight monsters shouldn't avoid becoming monsters". It seems bizarre to some people to preach turning the other cheek and acceptance. If one of these two is a "true" way to closure is something i don't think we can really say as it's a moral issue.
      • To this troper, i find it a bit revealing how many people think the way to closure should be locking up executing people in revenge instead of acceptance and rebuilding your life. And in a way it makes me feel a lot of people wouldn't ever let "the lovely bones" as Susie calls them grow in them like Susie's family did.
      • This troper interpreted it as a moral about choosing to live a little bit more life rather than wasting the opportunity trying to destroy someone else's, however deserving.
      • The real point of contention shouldn't be whether it's worth it to get revenge, or if ruining Harvey's life would be justice or revenge. The point of contention is that this man is an incredibly dangerous ephebophile who had, and would have continued to, rape and murder innocent young girls to satisfy himself. To refuse to stop him out of a need for peace or moral high ground is incredibly irresponsible. It has nothing to do with him "deserving it" or not. Is it really so disturbing to want someone who is a danger to the community at least locked away where he can't hurt anyone?
      • In truth this is a conversation that should happen on far larger scales than a page on this website. This is a question you can't get fully right. Morally speaking a justice system isn't really any better than the people it punishes, but as the above troper said, it takes them off the streets (or at least for a little while). The opposing viewpoint to let things be and hope karma comes round, works well in a work of fiction, but how practical is it to keep us real people safe? Do you want to be the monster with a better chance of not being raped and murdered by making someone suffer or would you rather be the saint who could much more easily be raped and murdered because you turned the other cheek?
      • This troper thought that scene with Ray and Susie/Ruth was a total Squick scene and skipped that chapter.
    • Correct me if I'm wrong but, at the point Susie possesses Ruth, Lindsey has already found the evidence to implicate Harvey. So that means he was going to be busted by the police anyway regardless of what Susie did. And how could Susie help matters? Run outside and say "hey, this guy killed me and my body's in that safe?" She could just as easily not be believed, and for Harvey to possibly get violent and attack the people there - and with a sinkhole he could throw them into as well. Susie already learned this lesson when she saw her father pursuing Harvey into the cornfield with a bat - she at first wants Harvey punished but then realises she doesn't want her father to get hurt or go to jail simply because of his obsession with catching the killer. Susie above all just wants her family to move on and live full lives in spite of what has happened to her. At this point, the police have now been given the evidence they need, the family know who the killer was and Harvey will at least be searched for. After having been robbed of so many things in her life, Susie just wants the chance to be with the boy she liked for a little while. Although thankfully the film changes this to just a kiss, implying she wouldn't have even had time to do much more.
      • That's the film version, in the book they've had a warrant for his arrest for years by the time of Ruth's possession. He's even stopped by a cop who doesn't recognize him as a wanted man before Ruth sees him. And the real thing that caught her attention was all the ghosts hovering around the car as it drives by.
  • Somehow Susie was able to tell her little brother that she was in the In-Between. Why not tell him who the murderer was?
    • Susie states in the novel that she doesn't know if Buckley actually knows she's in the In-Between or if he's just making it up.
  • The one thing that bugs me is how was Susie not able to tell that Harvey was a creep? I know she trusted him because he was a friend of her parents, but what would you think if some guy you hardly know invited you into an underground area and tells you it's "kids only"? He even sounded creepy by the way he talked.
    • Not to mention that the man makes dollhouses in his spare time. Squick.
      • It was the 70s, long before everyone played spot the pedo. She would have just dismissed him as a harmless eccentric.
      • Even in the 2010s what's so creepy about designing dollhouses or even miniature houses? Especially if you are an architect nerd, i'm sure there's plenty of grown men with them around the house. He's never described as ever having played with them and it's said he takes orders so he's also making money off it, which again sounds like a pretty neat craftsman job
    • Susie did seem nervous about following him and she kept trying to leave, suggesting she really didn't trust him. Why she didn't follow her instincts is anyone's guess.
      • The answer is the same reason real girls sometimes get killed by creepy men, surely?
    • The answer lies in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Martin draws attention to this kind of thinking. He invites Mikael into his house for a drink. At this point, Mikael knows he's the murderer and yet chooses to go in anyway. Martin says something along the line that people are sometimes more worried about being rude or offending others. Susie may have been creeped out by Mr. Harvey, but she just thought of him as an eccentric older man. She never in a million years believed he would have actually tried to kill her.
    • Susie does say that if she hadn't been crushing on Ray and thinking of him so much, she probably would have noticed Mr Harvey watching her. But as it happened, he came across her alone in the middle of a cornfield with no one else nearby. You think if she had refused to go into the hole, he would have just let her go home? She was dead the moment she ran into him.
  • In the book it's implied that Susie psychically causes an icicle to drop onto her murderer killing him. The metaphysics that ghost can somehow get revenge by directly killing someone rises the question: many of history's greatest monsters have gone on to live long rich lives, so what make her so special that she gets blood when so many others don't?
    • Well, she's the narrator, and she never says "I made the icicle drop on Mr. Harvey", so any part she played in his death is, at best, vaguely implied. It could also just be a coincidence.
    • Could be that monsters who survived had ghosts who found it easier to move on. Could be they never walked under loose icicles that ghosts could manage to manipulate. Could be they found their comeuppance in other ways; plenty of history's greatest monsters have been uncovered or met fitting ends as well. Several things, really.
    • Susie is a spirit who was killed in a devastating and emotional way (raped and murdered), and could possibly be able to manifest as some sort of poltergeist. Perhaps because Susie felt so strongly in that moment that was able to influence her desire.
      • That is irrelevant. There have been billions and billions of people who died in incredibly traumatic and horrifying fashions throughout history that never got their revenge. Susie's death was horrifying, sure—but being raped and murdered isn't exactly an uncommon death, and there's plenty of other disturbing ways to be tortured and killed. What makes her special where she could succeed where other ghosts failed? Even Mr. Harvey had more than one raped and murdered girl under his belt who failed to get revenge on him.
    • May be foreshadowing, the text of the book is Susie narrating to us in a past tense. At the moment she is mentioning the game from Lindsey's time at camp, if this is Susie after she already knew how Harvey would die, her comment becomes much less evil sounding and more of a foreshadow
  • Let's talk about cornfields and seasons. I'm curious if someone actually has knowledge of this. Susie's death happens in December, so the corn crop should have been harvested by then right? (the book makes mention that it's corn for horses, not sure if that means anything important though) So it's not all big and tall at the time? Yet Susie mentions the "dead stalks" make it hard for her to walk in. The film has them a little bit on the smaller side. But it's not long after Susie's death Brian Nelson suggests getting it on in the cornfield with Clarissa, so I assume the cornfield has to still be somewhat non-visible out of season too? It's never mentioned when Harvey built the den, but it's also implied kids use it as a shortcut regularly. So how feasible is it for a man to be digging a hole in one and kids having sex in one that people wouldn't notice as much as it would be in full season?
    • The only way to explain it is that Harvey dug the hole in the middle of the night when no one would be going through it. And does Brian only suggest doing it in the cornfield? Do we know if they did it or not? So they might not have been doing it in the field during the winter. The film at least shows the field is completely bare at the time of Susie's murder.
    • There's never any indication how hidden the cornfield is from the regular development. Jack sees Clarissa's light heading to it but from the Salmon house he can't see into it. Googling "dead stalk cornfield" shows some of which are still quite high. So the book version is probably not full in season height but still tall enough to conceal a man digging a hole or two teens getting it on (both activities you can do not standing up).
    • I think we're also supposed to take into account this isn't a well taken care of cornfield in general. Lots of people go into it, commit crimes, get laid, go to school but not once do we really hear anyone was there guarding or taking care of it.
  • Also in regards to the hole, Harvey is said to collapse it in the book and that later they dig up the cornfield to find the evidence. How does that work? Assuming that Harvey dug out some of the dirt to have the open space if he collapsed it, shouldn't that specific area still be visible because the open space that was for the shelter will now be on top of the hole because there was no dirt there to fill it in? Did Harvey buy bags of dirt in advance for this job, as otherwise I don't understand how the cops, the farmer or just snoopy neighbors wouldn't have been able to figure out "hey something used to be here".
    • They do still notice part of the ground they can tell has been recently disturbed. It is in there they find Susie's blood but nothing to connect Harvey to it. We don't get to see much of what Harvey does to close out the scene as Susie is busy fitting her limbs together. But they don't find the coke bottle until they dig up the cornfield a lot more. Given Harvey's penchant for slowly shedding evidence i think we can assume he buried some pieces in other parts of the cornfield.
    • Remember the hole was also smaller in the book. Harvey had to hunch over to be in it. More than likely he did just collapse it, toss some extra dirt on it and went on. I assume the dirt that used to be there was stored somewhere to be tossed back in. It wouldn't be perfect but it would leave it looking like how the police notice it.
    • Going by how it looks in the film, the space is not that big, so it probably could have been collapsed easily enough. The family don't realise something is wrong right away either; they know Susie was staying after school and at first they think she's just late. That gives Harvey a good two hours to clear everything out before anyone even knows something is wrong. And then probably an hour or so of Jack asking people on the street and Abigail talking to the police. With Susie not being the first girl he's murdered, Harvey has probably gotten very good at disposing of the necessary very quickly.
      • And as Susie's narration states, this was a time before people were that suspicious of child killers or stranger danger. So if anyone had noticed the disturbed part of the cornfield before the murder, they might have thought it was odd but not worth thinking about. No one expects anything 'exciting' like that to really happen in their area.
    • Within the context of the book, Harvey's disposal of the hole is rather sloppy given the police do notice it rather quickly. But this is missing Harvey's real point in the exercise. His main goal there was to hide his involvement which he does. The police still find evidence the hole existed, they still find evidence Susie is probably dead, but not a single trace George Harvey is connected to either until much later.

Film Examples:

  • Film only: Why does every single synopsis (including on this very wiki) state that Susie was "raped and killed"? Because if I remember correctly, at no point in the movie is it said or even implied that Harvey raped her. I know that this was explicitly stated in the book, and that there were good reasons to remove it from the film. But still, watching the film as it is, Harvey might as well "only" have killed her. The same goes for all his other victims. And don't say this goes without saying, there have been plenty of serial killers who gained pleasure solely from the killing itself and did not sexually violate their victims.
    • The way Harvey acts and just looks at the girls he either kills (Susie) or thinks about killing seems to suggest a very blatant sexual desire.
    • One of Susie's lines about Harvey's victims is "he had only wanted to touch her". That implies something sexual was involved. Alternately, they're just using the book's synopsis.
    • 1. Like another user said, the lecherous way he was looking at Susie along with all the... uncomfortable questions he was asking made it clear that he was planning to do something to her that involves sexual violence. 2. Thatís what most child predators would do. 3. Didnít one of the brief flashbacks show him throwing her onto the ground in a very rapey position?
  • I haven't read the book, so I don't know if this existed there, too, but how would the book Susie's sister found in Mr. Harvey's house in the film be admissible against him? She broke into his house when he wasn't home, without any probable cause and with no reason to suspect that he was the killer, Evil-Detecting Dog not-withstanding.
    • This is an example where the film made choices that make less sense than the source. In the book what Lindsey steals isn't an elaborate scrapbook. It is just a drawing plan for the hole with the name of the Cornfield next to it. She returns home and gives it to her Father who then calls Len. Len is unable to answer because he is having an affair with Abigail at the time. Meanwhile Harvey calls the police himself to report the break in and declines to press charges. Harvey then takes off, at that time all they have is enough to question him again. It is not until after the suspicion of the drawing and him leaving do they dig up the cornfield and find the coke bottle with fingerprints. It is then within the book they have evidence enough to put a warrant out for his arrest.
    • Well I don't know about probable cause but her father seemed to believe Harvey was guilty. The problem was that he had just gone through so many false leads and bugged the police that they just didn't want to pursue Harvey. Len refuses to investigate when Jack presses him, because he thinks it's just another false lead. So they did go to the police first and the police refused to help. And in the movie, Harvey flees as soon as Lindsey takes the book - so he's not there to press charges for breaking into his house, and looks guilty for running as soon as Lindsey took the book. And if I recall, the book did contain the drawing plan for the cornfield. And you should remember that Harvey doesn't get convicted; he flees before the police can catch him and dies on the side of the road.
    • The answer is yes. She wasn't a cop and wasn't acting on their instruction. Constitutional rights only protect you against the government, not teenage siblings of your victims.
    • If the matter goes to court - and without Harvey there to defend himself that's very unlikely - Lindsey could argue that she had reasons to be suspicious of him. He's found building some kind of cage in his back garden, and Jack is convinced he's a suspect. And as said before, she felt that if she went to the police then she'd be dismissed. So she felt she had to take matters into her own hands to get some kind of evidence. And honestly without Harvey there, Lindsey can make up whatever story she wants about how she got into the house. Maybe she could say she thought she heard or saw something - and since she found evidence that points to Harvey being Susie's murderer things look like they're going to favor her. They can't convict Harvey of the murder since he dies not long after, therefore the matter will never go to court. The book mainly confirms for the family that he was the murderer.
      • For the book comparison the story she works out before she does it is that she followed a stray kitten into the basement. Although as mentioned above she never has to use it.
    • For what it's worth, the film did shoot Abigail and Len's affair subplot and delete it, so their mindset may have also been that Lindsey might not trust the police - since the detective investigating her sister's disappearance ended up sleeping with her mother.
  • Film: Instead of parking 50 meters away and laboriously moving the safe by hand, why didn't Mr. Harvey just back his truck up close to the edge of the sinkhole?
    • Maybe there's a health and safety regulation there. Don't park the car too close to the sink hole or else it might accidentally fall down. If he's trying to flee from the police, he doesn't want to get held up trying to stop his car from going down the hole.
    • The sinkhole is very different than it was in the book. In the book there's still only a small opening that one point at least the top of one refrigerator can be seen poking out of. In the film it's looking like a gigantic landfill. The book explained that the sink hole was on the Flanagan's property (not the Connors) and that they took money from locals to drop old appliances and furniture down into the hole. In the book Harvey knocks on the door hands the money and they ask if he needs help and he says yes. The scene ends there. In that instance it makes sense given the hole is much larger underneath the ground that one needs help not driving a heavy vehicle right up to it. The film's version however is completely exposed and rather unlikely to need any such precaution.
    • Also for record in the book the Flanagan's get bought out of their property because they are concerned the top layer is about to collapse soon. The film version that must have happened way back before Susie's story.