Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The boys mention Mrs. Kerafilis, an old lady who lived down the street from the Lisbons, and her growing curiosity in the girls next door. Mrs Kerafilis is old, and waiting to die. Her death is implied as a choice made by here, toppling down her stairs, after banishing the aid of her banister. The boys see the girls again, as the four sisters link arms one Spring day, in attempt to save the elm tree in their front yard from the city, who claims it has Dutch Elm Disease.

Mrs. Kerafilis has a head-scratchingly large appearance in this part of the novel. This is what I find the most interesting bout this novel. So many subtleties are mentioned (the strange smell, the fish flies, the young boy jumping off the roof) that they all create this picture of almost absurdity, or dark irony. All of these bizarre happening seem, obviously, too strange to appear in the novel as a mere plot point. They all serve as reader-interepreated symbolism, and I think they can mean whatever you want them to mean. For instance: "Old Mrs Kerafilis had been shaped and saddened by a history we knew nothing about" (Eugenides 222). This makes me wonder what would have became of the girls, had they not decided to end their lives, would they have grown old and bitter like the lady down the street? Dying young and leaving a wake of beauty has something to be said for it, according to Eugenides.

I noticed that it is mentioned that Mary sits in front of her mirror for hours at a time, "Mary spent hours looking into her portable plastic mirror" (Eugenides 229). It's sad to think that so much self-reflection can lead to an act of suicide. I think this symbolism implies that Mary saw something in herself that she didn't like, yet couldn't change, even through hours of primping and putting on makeup. A mirror forces the viewer to look long and hard at themselves; what Mary saw in herself might have aiding her choice in suicide.

The saving of the Elm Tree in the yard is the girl's last attempt to save a memory of Cecilia, as the tree in question was her favourite. It also shows them trying to gain control over their lives, to influence the power of those above them. The city workers represent the World in their eyes; uncaring, unfeeling and unable to see the beauty in the world around them. They're too busy "just doing their job" to care about the feelings of four teenage girls. Society is too busy preoccupied with itself to care about others.

I also like the foreshadowing that appears when the foreman warns Mr. Lisbon of the consequences of not chopping down the dead tree: "'Look, we leave this tree and the others will all be gone by next year'" (Eugenides 237). This line is also one of the select few lines from this part of dialogue to make it into the movie. It foreshadows the death of the four sisters. If their own personal dead elm is not confronted, they will all be gone by next year.

When the season is in winter, the mood of death is apparent. Even the way Eugenides writes as the seasons apparently change is noticeably more deathly and despairing then his manner of communication in the earlier parts of the novel. It was getting quite depressing, to be frank.

I was very glad when Spring finally came to the Lisbon neighbourhood.

Words Researched:
Palpate: Examine a part of the body by touch. The boys could not palpate the grief of the girls. Here, the grief is given the human attribute of a body, as if it was something concrete.
Portentous: Something that is a sign, or a warning that something bad is about to happen. The picture on Mrs. Kerafilis's fan depicted portentous clouds piling above Jesus praying.
Automatons: A mechanical or robotic device made to look like a human. The papers would describe the Lisbon girls as automatons.

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