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.