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: http://www.suite101.com/content/25-of-children-on-prescription-medications-a343312
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.|
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.