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Susie is the narrator of the story. She has been raped and murdered and feels enormous pain, even in heaven, for what has happened to her. However, she also presents careful analyses herself about her family and friends. In these, we see her great love and compassion for those she misses dreadfully. We must not forget that she is also a character who must be examined for her own grief: Susie doesn’t want to be dead and she can’t break the chains that bind her to Earth. So we follow her agony as she slowly grieves her own death and says goodbye to the people she loves.
As Susie’s father, he feel enormous guilt for having failed to protect his little girl, but he also remains devoted to her memory and actively seeks her appearance in some manner in his life. He is a man who is faced as well with the loss of his wife who leaves the family to resolve her own grief. He then takes over as father and mother to his two remaining children, bearing the burden of their pain as well as his own.
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 is profoundly unhappy even before Susie’s death and so she has tremendous hurdles to overcome. She is selfish and unfeeling as well when she has an affair with the detective who is investigating Susie’s death and when she decides to leave her family for seven years to take care of herself. In the end, she recognizes her faults and her mistakes and moves to rectify them for her family. She is able to let go of Susie and let go of the childish desires that caused her to walk away.
Lindsey is the one of the family who suffers in silence and wills herself to be strong for everyone else. Yet, her pain is deep and she bears many burdens: because she looks like Lindsey, people see only a bloody body when they look at her; her mother has shut her out, lies to her and then leaves; the world moves on and soon comes to forget what happened to their family; she has a six year old brother who must lean on her when their mother leaves; and her father has lost much of his will to live. Because she is the strong one and is living the life Susie never had, Susie follows her and this is a burden that Lindsey feels only subconsciously. Nonetheless, it is a chain that binds her to her dead sister.
Ray is the man who should have been Susie’s soul-mate. He too is tied to her memory and can never completely put her out of his mind. He is not very popular at school, like Susie, and he feels shy about making his feelings known. As a result, one kiss holds him to her for a very long time. In the end, the miracle that allows Susie to inhabit Ruth’s body creates closure for both of them. They are able to fulfill what death had denied them: the expression of their love. From that point on, Ray, now a doctor, is able to let Susie go and live his life knowing the possibilities of Heaven.
She is depicted as a young girl whose status as a kind of outcast among her classmates makes her obsessive about Susie. Susie had touched her as she died in the cornfield and began to rise to heaven. This has a profound impact on Ruth who spends the rest of her life believing she has the second sight and can see girls and women who have been raped and murdered. She wanders New York City, looking to protect any living girls and women from becoming victims and she prays for the ones who do. In the end, because she wants it so much for Susie and because Susie wants it so much as well, she allows her body to be used by Susie to make love to Ray. However, she never lives a normal life again.
He is the monster who rapes and kills Susie. He has been killing girls and women for a long time and has never been caught for his deeds. The author presents him in a somewhat sympathetic light, however, by showing the horrible childhood he experienced and how he draws buildings and builds dollhouses to keep himself from killing. Even though it doesn’t work, the fact that he makes the attempt gives him some sympathy. In the end, though, he is a pathetic horror of a human being, who seeks out the grave of one of his victims and when he discovers it’s empty, he sleeps in it. He dies through the will of Susie who needs him to be dead so she protect any other girls or women he might kill and so she can break the bonds of Earth.
He is the detective who investigates Susie’s case. He has been doing this work for a long time and it’s obvious he is on the verge of burn-out. He lives in a lonely apartment above a barber shop and spends his time trying to solve cases of girls and women who have been murdered. He carries their pictures in his wallet and writes the date the case is solved on the back. Many of them remain blank. He is over-whelmed by his inability to solve all these cases as well as Susie’s, and turns to Susie’s mother for escape. We realize that what he’s done - the affair with Abigail - is reprehensible, but the loneliness he endures both before and after is heart-wrenching. In the end, he is left with nothing: George Harvey has not been caught; Abigail has returned to her husband; he has not found Susie’s body; he has many cases unsolved; and what’s even more devastating, his wife committed suicide and he has no idea why. He’s a lost soul, too, in some ways just like George Harvey.
This character is a life-saver, particularly Lindsey’s life. He is a heroic figure who stands ever supportive and ever loving to help Lindsey, and even the rest of her family, deal with the tragedy of Susie’s death and the temporary collapse of the family. He first talks to Lindsey at school after Susie is murdered and then he brings her a Christmas gift that first holiday, just three weeks after Susie died. The gift is a pendant with a heart broken in two, as is Lindsey’s, but he wears the other half to show her he “has her back.” He stays beside her for the next seven years and finally proposes to her. He has been committed to Lindsey for all that time and he will stay with her forever.
As the little four year old brother of a murdered sister, he might have been depicted as just a kid who doesn’t understand what has happened. However, the author shows him as being a very wise child who not only depends on his father and Lindsey, but watches over them as well. He sees and talks to Susie and he holds her in his heart just like everyone else. He builds a fort for her; he saves the little, old shoe from the Monopoly game, because it was her favorite; and he plants a garden just for her. He hates his mother for a long time, because she leaves him. But in the end, he too is ready to accept what has happened in the past and let it go.
She is like an alter-ego for Abigail Salmon. They both feel trapped in a situation they never wanted and look to escape somehow. However, Ruana ultimately doesn’t have the courage to leave, because of the bond she has with her son, Ray. She stays and tries to forget that soon her son will grow up and move away while her husband never comes home, because he is married to his ambition. Eventually, however, the word divorce will begin to ring in her mind and like Abigail, she will find her way.Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version