The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

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Role Mother? Role model? Motherhood? The death of a loved one can result in a trauma where the painful experience causes a psychological scar. Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones explores the different ways in which people process grief when they lose a loved one. When young Susie Salmon is killed on her way home from school, the remaining four members of her family all deal differently with their grief. After Susie’s death, her mother, Abigail Salmon, endures the adversity of losing her daughter, her family collapsing, and accepting the loss of the life she never had the opportunity to live. Abigail uses Freud’s defence mechanisms to repress wounds, fears, her guilty desires, and to resolve conflicts, which results in her alienation and separation from her family. When the bond between the mother and a child is broken through the death of the child, it can be unbearable to face, leading the mother to turn to denial in order to cope with her loss. When Abigail hears the news that her daughter Susie is dead, she refuses to believe it, “but when they held up the evidence bag with my hat in it, something broke in her. The fine wall of leaden crystal that had protected her heart […] shattered” (Sebold). Sebold presents the story narrated from the omniscient first person point of view of Susie, who has been murdered; the hat belongs to Susie, making the death real to Abigail though she does not want to believe it. She denies the event and would prefer not to talk about it with anyone, even her husband. This starts to distance Abigail from her husband, marking the beginning of her alienation, which has resulted from Freud’s defence mechanism of avoidance and denial. This situation proves that “denial can temporarily be useful in helpin... ... middle of paper ... ... and deal with their unhappiness. Over the course of the novel, Abigail grieves several things: the loss of her daughter, the collapse of her family, and the loss of the life she never had the opportunity to live. She turns to Freud’s defence mechanisms as methods of enduring the agony that she faces, which subsequently lead to her alienation. The defences become a habit for Abigail, and she is portrayed as a selfish person during her affair with the detective investigating Susie’s death, and later on when she decides to leave her family for eight years to take care of her. In the end, she recognizes her faults and her mistakes and moves back home to amend her neglect for her family. Abigail is able to let go of Susie and let go of the childish desires that caused her to walk away, confronting the negative results of her dependence upon Freud’s defence mechanism.
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