Thursday, March 31, 2011


After the dance, the boys take the Lisbon girls home. All except, of course, Lux, who stays with Trip on the football field to have sex. She appears drunk at her home, two hours later than expected. Because of her failuire to make curfew, Mrs. Lisbon shuts the girls up in the house, and takes them out of school. The boys rarely see the girls, except for Lux, who has developed a habit of having sex with random boys and men on the roof of her house at night when the Lisbon parents are asleep.

"'We just want to live. If anyone would let us'" (Eugenides 172).
This quote by Mary Lisbon, to her homecoming date really sums up the feelings of the Lisbon sisters. After the death of Cecilia, so many rules and sanctions are placed upon them. They have been analyzed and discussed and scrutinized to the point in which they no longer have any breathing room. Their parents, their friends and their community have all played a role in this. It calls in to question the definition of being alive, and what is really important in life. For example, it's one thing to be living, but Mary Lisbon (and presumably her sisters) want to experience life. They're rare birds in cages, cut off from the outside world (pardon my cliched metaphor).

To add to the mystery of the storyline, Trip Fontaine begins to act strangely as he and Lux go off to the football field. The book Trip is a lot more heartless than the Trip in the movie. He begins to hint at his unattached feelings for Lux: "'This is it. We danced. We got ribbons. It only lasts for tonight'" (Eugenides 178). He is referring to their status as homecoming King and Queen, but his choice of words almost foreshadows to what is about to happen next. And what does happen next is the kind of thing you  hear about in typical cautionary don't-have-sex stories: "'It's weird, I mean I liked her. I really liked her. I just got sick of her right then'" (Eugenides 179). Trip has sex with Lux, and leaves her on the football field, alone. I don't know what to make of this, other than the obvious finger-wagging message of not engaging in sex, because the man/boy/boyfriend/manthing/whatever will instantly devalue you if you do. Is this a message to young girls? Granted, this may just be reality. It may be simpler than a cautionary message, it might just be the sad truth of being a teenager and unsure about what you want. As much as boys can say they don't understand girls, here, I don't know if I understand Trip's motivations.

The season changed definately, as the girls are placed under lockdown: "Moreover, as fall turned to winter the trees in the yard drooped and thickened, concealing the house" (Eugenides 181). The metaphorical death of Lux's innocence is symbolized by the coming winter. Even the other girls lost some of their cherished innocence at the dance, though they did not fall as hard as their younger sister did. The trees conceal the house, the opposite effect of what bare trees normally do. The boys' close relationship (through nothing but sight and sound of the girls) is ending. They are drifting farther away from the four sisters.

I also find it interesting that, years after the deaths, Mrs. Lisbon meets the boys for a makeshift interview in a bus station. It's almost as if she has no place to go, no metaphorical home anymore. She is lost, much like uncomfortable traveller at a bus terminal.

It also has mentioned for quiet a while that Lux is a cigarette enthusiast. The cigarette could be looked at as a phallic symbol. Lux is addicted to cigarettes, it is her crutch, and it helps her through the day. In turn, she is now also addicted to men, trying to justify through sleeping with countless amounts of them that her time spent with Trip Fontaine (who she never talks to again) was meaningless. Both of these habits make her feel better, they help her take her mind off her troubles. They can also both leave you dead, both literally (cigarettes) and figuratively (sleeping with anyone brave enough to scale your roof).
Lux and Trip never speak again.
Words Looked Up:
Dictum: A formal statement from an authoritative source. Mrs. Lisbon, a controlling dictator, would be one to give a dictum.
Redolent: Strongly suggestive of something. The boy's remember the hour of the day, by the redolent tastes in their mouths from hours before. The days are blending together, with nothing of merit to mark their coming and going.
Punitive: Intended as punishment. Mrs. Lisbon later insists that she never meant to punish the girls by taking them out of school.
Miasmic: An unpleasant smell. Raccoons were attracted to the run-down Lisbon house by the miasmic vapours of garbage. There is A LOT of smell imagery in this book.


I had a thought. I wonder if the author has filled in the gaps that are left empty regarding the Lisbon sisters. Does he know exactly how they were thinking? Does he know the exact pin point moments that they decided to kill themselves together? Is he just as clueless as the boys across the street?

In this section of the novel, the boys recollect the dance, through the memories of the boys that took the Lisbon sisters, other patrons at the dance, and themselves. Trip and the boys pick up the girls, who are wearing sacklike dresses made my Mrs. Lisbon. They attend the homecoming dance, and Lux and Trip sneak off under the bleachers to drink and make out. The pair are followed by Bonnie and her date, who also drinks. The night seems to be getting off to a good start for the sisters and their awkward counterparts.

"Mrs. Lisbon thought that the darker urges of dating could be satisfied by frolic in the open air, love sublimated by lawn darts" (Eugenides 150).
This quote reminds me so much of the attitude that my mother has towards dating. Or at least the attitude that most parents feel obligated to show their children. This quote just makes me laugh. Mrs. Lisbon could, of course, not be more off with her thoughts. I wonder if Mrs. Lisbon actually is as clueless and straight-laced as she seems, or just takes on that attitude as a mask to show her daughters and keep them safe, as any parent wants to do. It seems like she's so clueless about the nature of boys and dances and hormonal teenage girls that she must have some idea of the obvious sexual tension that's building up in the two bedrooms upstairs in her household. Then again, maybe not...

I almost feel bad for the powerless wreck that is Mrs. Lisbon. When I say powerless, I refer only to her in the context of the dance. She is letting go of control for the first time, letting her girls off into the world that she has only heard about. It must be scary for her, such a control-freak (if you will), to let go of that power for once. I don't think her worries are of boys, or car accidents, or dancing too close. I don't think Mrs. Lisbon wants to give up control. Often, tragedy can induce someone to grip the reigns a little tighter, hold on even more closely to what's left behind. I see this a lot with families going through loss or divorce or hard times. The parents tend to grip their kids a little closer, the one last thing they have power over. I don't think Mrs. Lisbon means to be an antagonist: "'She came from a sad race' he said. 'It wasn't only Cecilia, the sadness had started long before. Before America. The girls had it too'" (Eugenides 156). I'd love to know what made Mrs. Lisbon so sad.

It's hard to be angry at anyone in this story, I suppose.

The white corsages are also mentioned frequently: "'The flower guy said that white would go with everything'" (Eugenides 157). The white symbolizes innocence and purity, and is given to each girl by their respective date. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Lux loses her corsage as the night goes on.

Obvious foreshadowing occurs when Lux blows three smoke rings (one for each of her sisters) from her cigarette and one of the cruder boys in the car shouts out "'Don't let it die a virgin!'" (Eugenides 162). So blatant I won't even bother discussing it, though it's a very clever moment.

It's endearing how the boys narrating the story regard the girlish truths of life almost in a Holy sense (e.g the bathroom is referred to as the "confessional surroundings" (Eugenides 165). Everything that the girls do, and anything girls in general do is a mystery, a sacred ritual, a secret custom. It speaks to the fact that boys, as a species, are mystified by girls, and of course vice versa, especially around the age of sixteen. Some things will never change. The innocence of it all, and the curiosity is a big part of the idea of youthfulness in this book. Not understanding the opposite sex is a part of being a young person, and when one does not understand something, they tend to glorify it to their own high expectations. The bathroom comes a confessional, their bedrooms become sacred ground, their bathrooms even more so, as we discovered earlier on in the book. The loss of innocence allows us to better understand the opposite sex, but then the mystery and the magic is taken away. A regrettable trade-off.

Worded Looked Up:
Sublimated: To modify an instinctual impulse into something more socially acceptable. Mrs. Lisbon sublimated the more...instinctual side of dating into a family-channel appropriate event.
Liminal: Transitional or initial stages of a process. The Lisbon girls have liminal rites as they go out to the dance.
Bowdlerized: To remove material that is inappropriate from a text. To make it less offensive. The family bookshelf of the Lisbons was bowdlerized. Shocker.
Tumult: A loud confusing noise made by a crowd. The girls became lost in the tumult of the dance.


The school holds a "Day of Grieving" so that the students can reflect and move forward from the death of Cecilia, including the addition of a fraudulent social worker. The Lisbon girls don't participate, but instead shut themselves in the bathroom. The boys recall their conversations with Lux's "smoke friends" and the teachers, project partners and observers of the other Lisbon sisters. Autumn is almost over, and the Lisbon girls take a turn for the better, by eventually opening up to the new social worker. Trip asks Mr. Lisbon to take Lux to homecoming, a brash move on his part. Mrs. Lisbon agrees, but only if Trip finds dates for all the other girls, and they all go together.

The fake social worker is an interesting addition to the plot: "A year later, after the rest of the suicides, she disappeared without a word. Her degree in social work turned out to be fake, and no one is sure if her name was really Lynn Kilsem" (Eugenides 138). To me, it's ironic. The one person that the girls could confide in turned out to be unreliable, and "fake", thus furthering the feeling of isolation and flimsiness in the structure of their world. I think the fake social worker symbolizes the apathy of most people, and the mask that they hide behind. I don't know whether to dislike or like Mrs. Kilsem.

The idea of the girl's "first date" has began to sprout. Many girls under more lenient family rules would most likely have had some experience with the opposite sex by fourteen, fifteen, sixteen and seventeen. Not Boonie, Mary or Therese however, and Lux too hadn't been on any formal dates or dances. It's arguably one of the biggest All-American rites of passage: the homecoming dance. I'd feel excited for the girls if I didn't know about the mediocre/disappointing/boring/uninteresting/heart-breaking night that is in store for each one of them respectively. As with most cases, "It's difficult to say what the date meant to the girls" (Eugenides 149). I love the third-party commentary from the boys. This book would be in danger of coming across as another typical hormonal cryfest if it was told in first person from one of the girls. It would still be a good story, but there would be no mystery, no secrets. The boys have a way of making even the average teenager's thought seem so surreal and so important. We don't know anything about the thought-track of the four Lisbons, and that's what makes it so interesting.

Words Researched:
Hybridization: Cross-breeding two or more species. Mrs. Huntington saved her crop of plants by cross-breeding them. Irrelevant to the story.


"None of my daughters lacked for any love. We had plenty of love in our home" (Eugenides 113)
To me, this is the very sad aspect of the story. Even after the suicides of her five daughters (that's five violent premature deaths within a very short time period), Mrs. Lisbon still fails to see what she may have done wrong as a parent. She sticks to her guns, if you will. While the textbook definition of love might have been readily available to Lux and the other girls, the death toll speaks for itself: something was missing in their lives. To me, the idea that the girls died, and their parents will never really know what was really happening within their own communities, even in their own houses, really strikes a chord with me. Again, the commentary on parenting is pretty extreme. The generation gap between the girls and their parents seem to draw them excruciatingly far apart.

The lack of male guidance in the life of the Lisbon girls is also very notable. Mrs. Lisbon is almost in the fatherly role, while the meek and mild Mr. Lisbon "would light his (leaf) pile like the rest of the fathers, but his anxiety over the fire's getting out of control would diminish his pleasure" (Eugenides 117). I almost feel bad for Mr. Lisbon. He reminds me of several guy friends I have that don't know how to deal with girls in any way shape or form. His inner frustrations that he only ever projects through his inane awkwardness makes him sort of a pathetic character. The contrast between him and the only other characterized male figure in the novel, Trip Fontaine is paramount. I think Mr. Lisbon is the real victim in this story. Looking through a feminist lens however, it would be easy to place the blame on Trip (exclusively for Lux) and Mr. Lisbon as the apathetic pushes that sent the girls over the edge. The lack of  any strong male figures could be argued as an instigator for all five deaths.

The neighbourhood in which I envision this tory reminds me a lot of the neighbourhood in Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. The peanut-gallery effect that the rest of the neighbourhood has on the delicate situation at hand is very similar. The residents are cold, unfeeling, suburban. Attempts to reconcile the sadness are darkly hilarious to the reader, e.g handing out suicide awareness pamphlets on green paper, because green is happy "but not too happy". The mundane details of the lives of these suburban busybodies are a symbol for the older generation in North America. They are also a symbol for the United States in itself, and the selfishness and shallow attitude that the nation, unfortunately, has become so reputable as: "'You can't just stand by and let your neighbourhood go down the toilet,' she said. 'We're good people around here'" (Eugenides 121). Something so poetic, youthful and beautiful could not coexist with such constricted boundaries. And that is why the Lisbon girls have to die.

Another interesting quote that I found occurred when the boys are witnessing the makeshift teenage suicide awareness plan. They watch other teens "discuss" why they attempted the act: "We listened to them, but it was clear they'd received too much therapy to know the truth. Their answers sounded rehearsed, relying on the concepts of self esteem and other words clumsy on their tongues" (Eugenides 125). I think this goes hand-in-hand with my above point. The "realness" of the world is taken away. Every organic feeling and emotion is scripted and rehearsed. Every hint of sadness or depression is beaten down with therapy, drugs, counselling. It reminds me of the prescription drug craze that is only now being mentioned by the media, how young kids who can't sit still are diagnosed ADD or ADHD and put on medication, some as early as the age of six. Everyone is afraid of having a "sad" child or a "hyperactive" child, so the children are given anything that will make them "normal". The parents hand over their jobs as parents to doctors and therapists or a pharmaceutical company, like in The Virgin Suicides. This article in particular helped me draw this conclusion:

I love this book.

The Virgin Suicides, Final Party Scene

Edward Scissorhands. Both show suburbia as a symbol for the need to be "normal" instead of extraordinary.

Words Researched:
Voracity: Wanting or devouring a large quantity of food. Lux was voracious when she was in the car with Trip. Eugenides compares Lux to a rabid savage animal, she is "sex-starved".
Cagey: Reluctant to give information. Trip was cagey about sharing what had happened between himself and Lux.
Prosaicness: Lacking poetic beauty. Cecilia's death (to the boys) lacked poetic beauty. I beg to differ myself.
Goiters: A swelling of the neck because of an enlargement of the thyroid gland. The boys compare neckties to goiters; it carries an obvious negative connotation.

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Favourite Image

This is one of my favourite image from the movie The Virgin Suicides. I imagine it's the quintessential display for any girl that dumps out her purse on her bed. I love collages of items such as this one. The contrast between the lacy underwear, girly makeup and religious tokens shows the uncertainty in the girls' lives. The cross between little-girl objects (the mirror, the fan) and the grown-up objects (the lipstick, the perfume) shows that they are indeed at a stage of change.


As the story progresses, we are are introduced more to the character that ends up being the downfall of Lux Lisbon: Mr. Trip Fontaine. He is the self-admitted playboy of the local high school (made obvious by Heart's "Magic Man", his strutting-in-slow-motion theme music in the movie rendition of his description), and develops a liking (or lust) for Lux Lisbon.

You mentioned previously that Eugenides is perhaps making a statement on the role of parents in middle class North America, and I think the reader can notice this even in the subtle mentioning of Trip's father and unspoken mother figure. Trip obviously has a moderately promiscuous lifestyle, however: "From time to time, Mr. Fontaine passed by, on his way to or from Donald's room, but the iffiness of his own conduct prevented him from questioning the susurrations coming from under his son's door" (Eugenides 93). This quote explores briefly the idea of parental roles. I know from my own experience that a lot of parents struggle to maintain a parental role as their children reach almost-adulthood. Having parents of a straight-laced nature is harder for young adults, as there is no opportunity to frame your mother or father for hypocrisy. If Trip's father, a promiscuous bachelor-type himself, dared law down the law with Trip about ladies, he would also have to acknowledge that his own behaviour is/was/continues to be inappropriate, lest he use the age-old "do as I say, and not as I do" excuse that many parents use to punish their children's behaviour without punishing their own. Thus, he let's Trip have free reign of his own life, something that a lot of parents with normal human vices tend to do, because they feel they cannot say otherwise. Themes of power struggle and control come to mind.

This part of the story seems hazy, almost more dream-like than beforehand. You can almost feel the lazy hindering summer heat through the pages. The golden days of the Lisbon girl's lived will soon surrender to the struggle in autumn, and perhaps a death in winter. This whole story (and not to beat a dead horse, or whatever) is based on the memories and recollections of those who saw it. We already discover what becomes of Fontaine in his middle-ages. Still, he is haunted by the memory of Lux and her sisters: "'You never know what'll set the memory off," he told us. "A baby's face, a bell on a cat's collar. Anything." (Eugenides 100). This is almost a universal statement, or at least I'd like to think so. When remembering the distant past, it's almost compelling how the most minute detail can recall so much information. This story, almost a surreal blur of summer and past love and youthful innocence is so relatable. Sometimes it's nice to have incoherent memories. Sometimes it's better not to remember all of the finer details. Sometimes if we remember everything, our memory does not allow us to glorify things as harmful adventures of past experiences. Remembering bits and pieces allows one to glorify everything as they wish bringing a sort of enchantment to the memory, as the incoherent memories of the boys have done to this story. Does that make sense?

My favourite part of this section (potentially the whole book) is when Lux and Trip have their first real encounter during the school assembly: "As all other eyes watched Hurricane Zelda tear towards a coastal caribbean town, the hairs on Trip's arm brushed Lux's and electricity surged through the new circuit" (Eugendies 105). I love that their first encounter occurs during the mention of a hurricane. It's very symbolic of what's to come. The hurricane (their relationship) is caused by masses of cold air (Lux) and warm air (Trip) coming together to create a storm, and the aftermath, like with a real hurricane, is devastating to everyone in their path.

Another quote I liked was after the pair's first sexual encounter in Trip's car, right before bed check: "It was as though he had never touched a girl before" (Eugenides 110). The way Eugenides describes their first real...feel for each other isn't poetic or sappy. It's savage and realistic. And authentic.

Words Looked Up:
Reverberate: to be repeated several times in an echo. Trip's name began to reverberate throughout the halls.
Krishna: An allusion to one of the dark-skinned Gods of the Hindu faith. Described as a prankster, a good lover and a youthful boy, as well as very popular and well-liked. Trip, tanning in his pool with his head wrapped in a beach towel suits this allusion perfectly.
Tepid: Lukewarm. The sky was lukewarm, unlike the tropical paradise Trip appeared to believe he lived in, as he basked in his pool all day.
Ostensible: Something that appears true, but may not be. Trip makes a visit to the parking lot to polish his hood, when he really is smoking weed.

Friday, March 11, 2011


The fence becomes eradicated, as the neighbourhood continues to cleanse the death of the youngest Lisbon from their minds. The boys go over the the Lisbon house to clean all of the dead fish flies off of the grieving home. We also get into the mind of Mr. Lisbon, and his quiet despair and guilt, as his duty as a father leaves his mind. His life begins to break down. Paralleled, are the lives of the girls that return to school "as if nothing happened". While the other sisters hide away from all outside contact, Lux becomes more immoral and social with boys her age.

Eugenides continues to make a strong commentary on parents. A line I can really relate to is: We realized that the version of the world they rendered for us was not the world they really believed in, and that for all their caretaking and bitching about crabgrass they didn't give a damn about lawns" (Eugenides 68). This reminds me of the first time I heard my parents swear, or saw them wearing mismatched socks, or intentionally forget to pay the parking meter because they were "only going to be a minute". Parents try so hard when we're younger to guide us in the right direction, that when we finally grow up and their mask of perfection is taken off, it can come as quite a shock to us. It can be confusing, as a child to witness your parents being hypocritical, and in my own house, I don't think I saw my parents doing any "bad" things until I was a young adult. It also recalls me back to the time that one begins to speak to their parents on a adult level, as opposed to the adult/child relationship you're so used to. The boys have just reached he stage in which they realize that their parents are imperfect adults, with wants and needs and cares just like everybody else.

The fish flies that spoil the neighbourhood are a symbol for the haunting feeling that has been placed over the community after the suicide. Again, there is a lot of cleansing going on: "Using kitchen brooms, we swept bug from poles and windows and electrical lines. We stuffed them into bags..carpeting our swimming pools, filling our mailboxes" (Eugenides 69). I don't remember where I heard this quote, but it reminded me of this situation: "But it is a quick fix. A bandaid on a raw spot." To me, this cleansing of the neighbourhood, is only a quick fix, a way to cover up the actual problem that lies in the Lisbon household. Unfortunately, people are much happier to ignore a problem and cover it up, then face the problem head on and address it, especially if they are one of the causes of the problem. No one wants to acknowledge that Cecilia was depressing and upset, and it might have been somebodies' fault.

Mr Lisbon continues to search for answers within his household, without really searching at all. He catches Therese in the kitchen, comfort eating and "at that moment Mr. Lisbon had the feeling that he didn't know who she was, that children were only strangers you agreed to live with" (Eugenides 73). I have decided that I would recommend this book to anyone who parents teenagers. This commentary is so real and so relatable. Mr. Lisbon, in his guilt and grief realizes that he doesn't really know any of his daughters at all. In a way, this could be very specific to the role of the father. Earlier, Eugenides mentions that he would have loved to have boys, instead of five girls. I think fathers are afraid of their daughters, scared of subjects such as sex, growing up and becoming a woman. One could even go as far as to say that men do not understand women, and are intimidated by their presence, and with a mother as unfeminine and unsympathetic as Mrs. Lisbon, who will fathom the Lisbon girls?

Words Researched:
Regimental: To do with a regiment in a military; Chase held the broom like he was in the military. It is his duty to clean the house.
Crenellations: The battlements of a castle; Mr Lisbon describes the retainer he finds in the bathroom as a castle. The retainer belonged to one of the boys that was at the party. We see Mr. Lisbon bask in the unfairness of the world, knowing that the retainer belongs to a boy who is still alive, unlike his Cecilia. The other family has this "castle" while he has nothing. He throws the retainer out instead of returning it, almost like he's spiteful, and trying to balance the equality of the situation.
Rebuke: Express criticism and disproval. Mr. Lisbon sees what he thinks is the ghost of Cecilia, he is unsure whether he should ask her forgiveness or criticize her actions. Before he can decide what to do, the ghost of Cecilia turns out to be Bonnie, wrapped in a sheet.
Fissures: A narrow opening made by cracking or splitting. The boys feel the fissures on their mouth, even though they haven't had braces since they were younger. The remembrance of the horrors of dentistry is very relatable.
Geodesic: Relating to the shortest point between A and B. Mr. Lisbon begins talking to his plants, hanging from geodesic panes.
Aeneas: An elusion to the story of the Trojan leader who went on a journey, specifically to the underworld to see the dead. The boys compare the remaining Lisbon sisters to this character, blessed with knowledge and experience beyond their years and experiencing tragedy that people their age should never see.

Pages 44-67

The story moves forward with Cecilia's funeral, thus officially closing the chapter that was the life of the youngest Lisbon girl. The boys reflect on what Cecilia truly meant to them, feelings often only revealed after death. They find her diary and peruse its pages, looking for answers, just as the reader finds themselves doing. This act of "picking up the pieces" leaves us in a world of mystery and tranquility. The memories of the Lisbon girls as a whole are hashed through, including an introduction to Lux and her many schoolgirl crushes that were ended abruptly by her overbearing mother. The details of the events leading up to the fateful party are also rehashed and rehashed, mostly from the perspective of the unfortunate Mr. Lisbon.

The idea of the stages of loss is touched upon greatly in this novel. Many of the characters, specifically the adults in the neighbourhood show the many stages through their actions. An unfortunate, yet early stage in these series of emotions is denial. Denial is a big part of this book, an emotion and an attitude that, if abandoned by Cecilia's parents, could have ended up saving her. The fact that no one can manage to take a thirteen year old girl seriously really bothers me. If the doctors, parents and other adults could have realized that Cecilia was serious, and not just brushed off her actions as a thirteen year old girl being dramatic then her death might have been avoidable. Something Father Moody said really perturbed me: "'Suicide , as a mortal sin, is a matter of intent. It is very difficult to know what was really in those girls' hearts. What they were really trying to do'" (Eugenides 45). I can relate to the frustrations of not being taken seriously at thirteen. Suicide is a very serious choice, and an actual attempt should never be brushed off or downgraded to an "accident". Eugenides is making a very important statement on adults through the contrast between the boys that watch the girls, and the adults around them. The boys see them for what they truly are (or as much as they can through only secondary sources) while their own parents fail to realize what is going on within their own household. Its a frustrating thing to see play out for the reader.

At Cecilia's funeral, Mrs. Lisbon's choice of dress for Cecilia further expresses the author's commentary on families in our modern time: "She was dressed not in the wedding gown, which Mrs. Lisbon had thrown away, but in a beige dress with a lace collar, a Christmas gift from her grandmother which she had refused to wear in life" (Eugenides 47). The power struggle within the household between Mrs. Lisbon and the girls becoming women ended up in Cecilia taking her own life. From a young girl's perspective, and with a mother of similar nature of my own, one could definitely argue that the role of Mrs. Lisbon was a key factor in the suicides of the Lisbon sisters. Even in death, the rigid, constricting, itchy and uncomfortable high collar lace dress that Cecilia specifically refused to wear is being donned at her own funeral, because she cannot give an opposition to wearing it. Mrs Lisbon has her way. Cecilia looks neat and tidy and properly in her place, except for the obvious fact that she is dead. Cecilia finally fits into Mrs Lisbons constricting mould. Except, she had to die to get there. I don't much care of Mrs Lisbon.

My favourite line of the whole story, and of the movies occurs when the boys are reading Cecilia's precious diary: "'Basically, what we have here is a dreamer. Someone out of touch with reality. When she jumped, she probably thought she could fly'" (Eugenides 50). This line, to me, represents the ethereal  and dream-like quality of the entire novel. It seems like one huge surreal blur. The idea of the death of youth and beauty in suburbia just has a shocking, yet almost beautiful quality to it. It's just this poetic bizarre situation, where there are no definite answers and no one to blame entirely, like watching bits and pieces of a fast paced film, all mixed up in a backwards order.

The boys begin to really get into the mindset of the girls as they dive deeper and deeper into their world: "We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing what colours went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with different skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn't fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them" (Eugenides 53). The perspective of these boys on these girls is very interesting. it's extremely voyeuristic, yet there is a maturity, an empathy and an understanding that creates the building blocks for the entire narrative. As a girl, it would be nice to find some boys that understood girls the way these seemingly young strangers understand the Lisbon girls. Their perspective, unusual as it is, gives the reader the idea that the boys are merely viewers of wild animals in cages: beautiful yet foreign. They feel as if they are in synch with the Lisbon girls, even consider them as their twins. They are learning and becoming women in their minds, as the Lisbon girls become women in real life. Its an interesting parallel.

Strange, and maybe completely wrong, but hear me out! I personally have a partial theory that the Lisbon sisters were all aware of Cecilia's intention to commit suicide. When reading this book, small but important details are hidden within the text that give clues towards the reasoning for Cecilia's suicide. I find it very interesting that after Cecilia went upstairs, " Tom Faheem recalls Mary telling him about a jumper she wanted to buy at Penney's. Therese and Tim Winer discussed their anxiety over getting into an Ivy League College" (Eugenides 57). The words "jumper" and "ivy" seem specifically placed here, seeing as Cecilia jumped out of her window and onto an iron fence (a fine place to grow ivy). I don't know what I really make of these details, but they seem too coincidental to be ignored.

The parents of the neighbourhood eventually take the liberty to dig out the fence that caused the death of Cecilia Lisbon: "Not long after, a group of fathers began digging the fence out free of charge" (Eugenides 65). This is almost like the cleansing of the neighbourhood, the fathers ridding the damage from the act that another father didn't prevent. This adds to the feeling of Mr Lisbon's growing guilt. The other fathers in the neighbourhood are cleansing his family from an event that he, himself, might have had the power to control. Eugenides mentions that the fence will not budge, even after the attempt of towing with a neighbour's car. The death of Cecilia cannot be cleansed; it will never go away.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pages 23-44

After Cecilia's suicide attempt, the Lisbon parents decide to heed the psychiatrist's advice and allow the girls to have a party, thus relaxing some of their strict rules around the house. The boys tell of their invitation to the party, how they attended, only to witness a sullen Cecilia Lisbon excuse herself and, minutes later, plunge to her death. The boys and the Lisbon sisters watch helplessly as Mr. Lisbon attempt to rescue Cecilia from the garden fence that she is impaled on. The boys, again, look for clues in the diary of Cecilia as the rest of the neighbourhood searches for answers.

The aspect of this novel that really impacts me is the presence of dramatic irony: "That was why, two weeks after Cecilia returned home, Mr. Lisbon persuaded his wife to allow the girls to throw the first and only party of their short lives" (Eugenides 28). Specifically, the audience is fully aware, even from the first page, even before opening the book, that all five sisters are going to kill themselves. The question is not the traditional who, but is a more unorthodox why. Is isn't: who killed themselves? It's: why did they kill themselves? Therefore, the story takes a more interesting look at suicide and it's causes and affects and the emptiness it creates for those it leaves behind.

The imagery used is also very powerful to illustrate the death of Cecilia: "He was trying to lift her left breast, traveled through her inexplicable heart, separated two vertebrae without shattering either, and ripping the dress and finding the air again" (Eugenides 37). The literal death of innocence is described here and I causes the reader to ponder. The title The Virgin Suicides refers to the literal death of the girls in the book, them being youthful pure and (for the most part) virginal. Literally however, it refers to the death of innocence that is the prominent theme of the story. The death is willing, making it a suicide. I think the author is trying to make a story about the fact that no one can stay a Lisbon girl forever, and everyone must grow up and face the real world eventually. Cecilia's diary hold pictures: "Minatures designs crowded the pages. Bubblegum angels swooped from top margins, or scraped their wings between teeming paragraphs. Maindens with their golden hair dripped sea-blue tears into the book's spine. Grape-coloured whales spouted blood around a newspaper item (pasted in) listing arrivals to the endangered species list" (Eugenides 38). The boys have merely been fascinated by Lisbons and how they have, even only momentarily, have captured the essence of youth.

The author is also making a comment regarding the disunited nature of the typical North American family and community. After Cecilia's suicide: "No one else on our street was aware of what had happened. The identical lawns down the block were empty. Someone was barbecuing somewhere. Behind Joe Lawson's house we could hear a birdie being batted back and forth" (Eugenides 40). Life can go on, in such an emotional situation with such an emotionless attitude from the neighbours around, as if it was any other day. The death of youth and beauty has occurred right on their street, and they're barbecuing and playing badminton, blissfully unaware. It's dissatisfying and anti-climatic, but very real, such as the cemetery strike. Cecilia's body is unable to be buried. It's a sad situation for the family, because of the reality of real life. Life goes on, and what may be a colossal and life-changing situation for your family, someone else may be completely apathetic about. Just a sad truth about life I guess.

I already am enjoying this book as much as I enjoyed the movie. There are some small but important differences between the two that I find interesting. I'm looking forward to the story progressing and reading more about Lux and Trip Fountaine.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pages 1-22

Wow! After reading the first 20 pages of the novel, I can say that it is just as good a read as I hoped it would be. The style of writing is honest, almost ironic but with a flair that makes it easy to want to read more and further explore the lives of the Lisbon sisters, and the boys that watch them. We are introduced to the five sisters, their two overbearing parents and their neighbourhood, including many of the colourful characters that live amongst them.

The story starts off with a sickening jolt: The suicide attempt of the youngest girl, Cecilia Lisbon. The first quote that really stuck out to me was on the first page. The paramedics, when rescuing Cecilia from the bathwater state plainly: "'This ain't TV folks, this is how fast we go'" (Eugenides 1). Already it is evident that this story is not a glamourous one, as many unfortunate stories of suicide often end up being. In fact, there is an eerie honesty and plainness in the story's narrative. The events happening are so traumatic, and could potentially be so dramatic, but I enjoy how the narrator (the nameless boys) tell it simply how it is before their eyes. The melodrama is saved, and the story almost becomes darkly; and I think I really like that.

I noticed a lot of apparent symbolism in the novel. We are soon introduced to the fish flies, tiny creatures that swarm the street that the Lisbons live on. Cecilia speaks of them: "'They're dead,' she said. 'They only live twenty-four hours. They hatch, they reproduce, and then they croak. They don't even get to eat'" (Eugenides 2). I find this compelling, because throughout the first pages, we don't ever find out why Cecilia is suicidal, perhaps because the story is told from a voyeuristic point of view. The clues that the boys, and subsequently the reader try to put together are almost hidden in the commentary documented second-hand in the novel by Cecilia. Cecilia sees the tragedy in the life of the bugs, now dead on the windshield. Did she relate herself to those bugs? Did she see her life going on a sad short cycle such as theirs? This definitely helps us understand the bits and pieces of her mindset that we are never introduced to fully.

There was an interesting allusion made to Cleopatra, as Cecilia was wheeled out on a stretcher: "She looked like a tiny Cleopatra on an imperial litter" (Eugenides 3). Cleopatra killed herself, and Cecilia tried to kill herself. The exact reasons for either's death also remain a mystery, although there are numerous theories. Comparing Cecilia to a powerful Egyptian Queen helps paint an almost holy of otherworldly image that is powerful to picture.

The wedding dress that Cecilia insists on wearing all the time is also a symbol. I think it represents her purity and beauty in the world. Ironically, all she can see in the world is the ugly fish flies and she can't see her own beautiful nature, because she is wearing the dress, not seeing it on herself like everyone around her could. It also may tie into the title of the novel, The Virgin Suicides, because in many religions the bride is expected to be a virgin on her wedding day. There is an overall interesting religious tone that covers the premise of the novel. The sisters are raised Catholic, and Cecilia is found with a picture of The Virgin Mother in the bath tub when she attempts suicide for the first time. However there is an ongoing confusion, or hypocrisy within the household, as Mr. Lisbon is incredulous that Cecilia is buying into to the religious "crap" as much as she obviously is.

My own insight? I've been a thirteen year old girl myself at some point, and thirteen year old girls love the drama. I assure you if I was planning to kill myself at thirteen I probably would have held a picture of The Virgin Mary in my hands too, even though I have no idea what it would signify. Cecilia eating meatballs and spaghetti in order to feel closer to the Italian boy she had a crush shows that she is still a young girl with the mindset of someone her age. Silly, yes, but also kind of endearing; It's been said before that we can learn a lot from children. There's almost a magic to it. Though I have no sisters, I can relate to the idea of close bonds with other girls, and I can definitely relate to the conservative household in which no boys are allowed, hiding makeup from parents and other things that young girls tend to do.

I can already tell that the loss of innocence is going to be a prominent theme!

Words Researched:
Ephemeral: Transient, fleeting.
Febrile: Nervous excitement or energy. The Lisbon girls had febrile eyes.
Effluvia: An unpleasant or harmful odour. The bedroom of the Lisbon girls has an effluvia of so many young girls becoming women at once.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Reading schedule!

Finally I was able to download a copy of this book and after several hours of wrestling with file conversion software have managed to actually put it on my e-reader!

Thus, according to the reader there is 325 pages in the book, which is more than usual if I'm not mistaken. I think it's because the text is bigger.

March 11th: 1-90
April 1st: 90-218
April 15th: 218-325

I begin tonight!