The Lovely Bones: Ruth Connors

Who is “that strange otherworldly girl who so easily accepted the presence of the dead among the living”?

She is given no title other than the name she carries – Ruth Connors – but even this provides us with a clue as to who she might be. Her given name comes from the Hebrew word for friend and companion, also the central figure in the Book of Ruth, well-known for her promise “whither thou goest, I will go.” Her family name is commonly translated as (strong-willed or wise) “wolf kin” or “lover of hounds.” So, whatever else we learn from this story, the name by which she’s known already suggests a certain kind of loyalty, not only to one’s kin, but also to a certain kind of wisdom.

And if we were to re-play Susie’s story in our mind’s eye, we will witness the tracking of the two that form this unexpected pair. A pairing found at the very beginning.

This tracking also begins exactly where the story eventually finds its end: at the sink-hole by the edge of town, that yawning cavity which only seems to grow larger (and hungrier, perhaps?) as Susie’s tale unfolds. For it is there, while the Salmons are discarding an unwanted appliance into the gaping hole, that Susie first notices the girl. The one Susie only later came to realize wasn’t weird at all, but merely saw what others were unable to see.

So, even though Susie would only come to know her after that awful night, Ruth was already there before. In many ways, they were already defined as opposites, with Ruth carrying a bucket of soil while Susie’s suburban family would use the earth as their garbage pit. It should come as no surprise, then, that Ruth would long remain on the edge of Susie’s consciousness, despite the fact that their paths would continually cross, as if they were somehow bound together, one to the other.

Their next meeting would occur at school, when Ruth is being chewed-out by her teacher. As she’s being held to task for the “unnecessary” anatomical detail in her drawings, additions he considers inappropriate, not least of all because of the uses to which they’re put by the other boys. Strangely, as she eavesdrops on this exercise of authority (and humiliation) it is Susie that will hang her head in shame, as if she were the one responsible for inciting the Ellis boy’s illicit desire.

Ray Singh will take offense at this abusive exchange, as well. But as Ruth marches angrily down the hall, the teacher will turn to the two of them and say –

Didn’t you hear me, Singh?
Go!

– as if only one of them were standing there, alone.

Minutes later, it will be the two of them crossing the cornfield on their way home – Susie a mere peep in Ruth’s angry wake – oblivious to one another, and oblivious to the fate that at least one of them has in store. For while the dark one continues marching in anger, it will be Susie who stops to retrieve her knitted cap from her bag and who, in the process, loses the poem dedicated to her by the Moor.

It is this same poem that would later blow up to Ruth’s feet, announcing the arrival of Susie’s ghost and, as far as we can tell, the first and only time the two of them will ever touch. For as Ruth stoops to pick up the windblown piece of paper and begins to read, her attention will be drawn elsewhere, alert to an approaching storm. The rush of a tiny body, an indescribable terror inscribed on her face. Whatever else may have passed between them at that moment, Ruth had become Susie’s witness.

Or was it the other way around, reversed?

Later, after Susie has entered the world of the In-Between, Ruth will serve as Susie’s surrogate, her other. For while Susie watches from afar, yearning for the life that has left her behind and recalling to mind her rendezvous with Ray at the mall, it will be Ruth who makes the appointment at the gazebo.

She will ask whether he’s the Moor, pulling the piece of paper from a canvas bag not unlike one we have already seen before. Ruth will say she writes poetry, too, and that his efforts are good. She approves: his poem is to her liking. But because Ray doesn’t recognize the girl sitting closely by his side, or understand how his declaration of love found its way into her hands, he will ask whether there is another place she needs to be.

But their talk will soon turn to Susie’s passing – the one whose absence Ray is mourning – and Ruth will voice her newfound uncertainties about death. Her mind turning to that moment just a few days earlier, to a single moment, one that couldn’t have lasted more than a second, when she first witnessed Death’s horrendous aftermath. And it will be this experience she draws upon when offering the little comfort she is able to provide the one hunched over next to her.

What if she’s still here?

Despite Susie’s absence – or perhaps because of it – Ruth and the Ray will begin what would appear to be a platonic relationship. Susie, far away in the In Between, will continue thinking of him, surrounding him with her unseen presence.

Always I would think about Ray.
I was in the air around him.
I was in the cold winter mornings he spent with Ruth Connors …

… that strange otherworldly girl
who so easily accepted the presence of the dead among the living.

And yet, Ray, despite his friendship with the dark one, will still find himself thinking of Susie.

But from her otherwordly perch, Susie will recognize that he has also begun wondering whether it was time to put that memory behind. Wondering whether it was time to let her go.

In that other place, Susie will make her long deferred visit to the Murderer’s home while, in this world, we will see Ruth and Ray moving furniture – in exactly the place where this story began – as if marking a transition in their relationship to one other, even as a mysterious figure drives up to use the sinkhole that’s already been closed.

Quite inexplicably, Ruth will be captivated by this unexpected visitor, telling Ray the man gives her the skeevies.

Running to the shed, seeking cover from the man who killed her other, Ruth will remain entranced by his single-minded labor. And yet, even as her eyes remain transfixed on that awful figure, her attention will soon be drawn by a different vision, one she would not have expected, looking at the man below. For her aversion – and fixation upon – the killer will be replaced by sight no longer caught in the grip of fear.

In the distance – beginning as a mere glimmer – Ruth will once again lay eyes on her other, the Murderer’s visage replaced by another. And unlike their first meeting, Ruth will see that a serenity that has replaced terror, a face different from the one she had witnessed before. For this time, Susie is returning from a confrontation with the deeds of her enemy-neighbor, no longer haunted by the ominous threshold beckoning from the black pit of night.

But because this sight is unexpected, or perhaps because she does not fully understand it, Ruth will call out to Ray, moments before her collapse. For the vision does not keep its distance and, instead, merges with her, squeezing two souls into a single home.

Out of fear for her wellbeing, Ray rushes to her side, not knowing what had come to pass, finding Ruth passed out before him. When she revives and he asks what has happened, she will remain tongue-tied, unable to speak. So, instead, she will raise a hand to his face, trying to communicate, a hand that will transform into one belonging to her other.

Soon Susie’s face will appear as well, transforming Ray’s frightened concern to astonishment and surprise. And even though the other figure is no longer the focus of anyone’s attention, it is only when the killer’s vault tumbles into the sinkhole below that Susie will remind Ray of their exchange from long ago – the poem that brought them together – and ask for the kiss that will mark their love’s consummation.

For finally the face of Death has been laid to rest, and the Murderer put in his place. And for the first time, too, we see Susie in clothes other than the uniform that has defined her long and arduous journey.

Only after the rift to the underworld has been sealed can Susie speak of her Lovely Bones, of which Ruth and Ray are but a single coupling. (The other two being Susie’s parents and her sister Lindsey with her new husband.) For their connections – both tenuous and magnificent – these connections only come to fruition after Susie’s final departure.

When she finds a new way to hold the world … despite her absence.

Why, then, is Susie Salmon the narrator,
particularly if the story ends with her disappearance?
It is she who has survived the unthinkable.

And what is the role of Ruth Connors, her other?
She is the one who recovers from it.

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~ by mistified on May 10, 2010.

4 Responses to “The Lovely Bones: Ruth Connors”

  1. That’s pretty interesting, the aspects you’ve mentioned about Ruth and Susie. I always thought the were connected in a way and Ruth was always my favourite. I beleive that she ends up with Ray at the end, because it seems like they’ve become a couple. You have great insight!!!

  2. That…was beautiful perception. I actually teared up reading your conclusion, thinking of the emotion of the movie, of what Susie’s soul endured and what she left behind for Ruth. I too had an immediate empathy for Ruth, which is how I found this article…and I am so fortunate to have experienced your reflection of The Lovely Bones. Thank you for sharing this insight.

  3. I had the same feelings about Ruth, she had something different. But your perceptions are much more accurated and deeper than I was abble to go, thanks for sharing this with us.

  4. Ruth is the most fascinating character in the book. I just waited to see what Ruth does, to explore here charater and to learn form it. As a jewish, I can see more of bibical Ruth in Ruth connors: she is a person who acts for others, she is a foreign in this suburb. I am sure that she is the real “salmon”, the one that as quiet as a fish goes in her own spcial way, doesn’t try to go in the mainstream one.With all the respect for Susie, Ruth is t-h-e character of the book. I wish you all a long and happy life 🙂

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