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.

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