The Theme of Belonging in the Lovely Bones

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Belonging, or having a sense of belonging is defined as the human desire to feel accepted socially. It is considered to be a basic human need in Maslows hierarchy of needs and manifests itself in various forms (McGuire & Maslow, 2011). People who seek a sense of belonging are motivated by the desire to connect with others, as portrayed in the movie The Lovely Bones. The leading actress Susie, who is also the narrator of the story, brings out the theme of belonging in the entire movie. Her early demise through a neighbors attack leaves a sense of emptiness among her and those she left behind. She attempts to stay connected to them through various means. For example, by watching over them, and always trying to leave the in-between world in a bid to influence those who are alive. Towards the end, her soul enters the body of Ruth to gain sexual experience she previously longed for. One of the ways that people exhibit belonging is through seclusion or exclusion (James, 2008). Each of the family members isolates themselves when grieving, and keep memorabilia of objects related to Susie to stay connected to her. Suzies mother eventually separates herself for good as the grief was too much for her to bear.

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Comparison with other Movies

Another form of expressing the desire to belong is through assimilation or imitation (James, 2008). In the film Mean Girls, the leading actress, 16-year-old Cady struggles with the issue of acceptance. She has the desire to be socially accepted by the popular girls in her school and ends up altering her personality, clothing, and behavior, to fit those of whom she looked up to for her to be accepted as part of the popular girls. She goes up to the extent of pretending to fail in class and refusing to participate in a Mathletes competition because she feared ridicule. Eventually, she became famous for the wrong reasons and opted to go back to her real self.

Most people affected by the desire to belong fall under the teenage to young adults bracket because theyre still trying to figure out their identity (Butler, 2006). It is easy for them to assume the identity of a person or group of people, as opposed to being on their own. Having a sense of belonging prevents people from being socially awkward or lonely (James, 2008). For example, in the film Sister Act 2, one of the pupils Rita, portrays the desire to belong to a group and not search for her personal identity. She is a teenager in high school who goes to school, and skips class, just as other students do, even though she is both bright and talented. With the right mentorship, she was able to get her life on track, and find her real sense of belonging. This movie teaches us that we can get lost in identities or belong to groups that do not encourage growth, but the right mentorship and environment have a positive influence of individual belonging.

A comparison among the three movies indicates that there are positive and negative types of belonging (James, 2008). Susie wanted to connect to the earth and be with her family and friends, whereas Cady and Rita wanted it for the wrong reasons. Rita was without family support and found solace in other delinquent children, and Cady had her mothers support but still wanted to be popular. It is an indication that desire to belong is fueled by several factors like the desire for a deeper connection, love, understanding identity crisis, absence of mentorship, and the spirit of adventure.


James, E. (2008). A sense of belonging 3rd edition. London: Orion.

McGuire, K. J., & Maslow, A. H. (2011). Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Butler, S. G. (2006). Youth and youth culture. Berkeley, CA: University of California.

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