Thursday, April 14, 2011


The most important part in the novel deserves an important-ly long summary. The boys begin to see the girls packing through their bedroom window. They are moving with a new purpose; it is determined that the girls are planning to leave, hit the road and escape their household. The boys get a note from the girls telling them to wait for their signal on the night of the escape. The boys assume they are to aid the girls in their escape. They wait in the treehouse all night, until the signal from the Lisbons reaches them. Inside the Lisbon house, they meet Lux. She is dreamy and nonchalant, as always, and smoking a cigarette inside the run-down house. She strangely unbuckles the belt of Chase Buell, as they wait, in total Lux fashion. The boys wait in the living room (as the parents Lisbon sleep) for the girls to come run away with them. They have been assured that the girls are just finishing packing, and Lux is sitting in the car, waiting for them in the garage, as they make their move to escape. As they dream of travelling far away with the girls, they realize that the house has gone eerily quiet.

The boys mention from their watch, that "Cecilia's window had the dank glow of an unclean fish tank" (Eugenides 264). I think the choice of the noun "fish tank" has a significance here. The windows of the Lisbon home are much like those of a fish tank; people are always peering it, dissecting and picking apart the people on the inside. There is no privacy, no place to hide and certainly no sanity. This reminds me of the popular phrase "Life in inside a fish bowl," in which the person who is the unfortunate fish feels as if they are in the public spotlight at all times. It makes me wonder; perhaps the girls let the house become so dirty to visually shield themselves from the prying eyes of the community.

It is also mentioned several times that the summer fish flies (which, if you remember, are born, mate and die within a 24 hour period) are back in the neighbourhood, causing much disgust and general annoyance: "The scum of their dead or dying bodies darkened street and headlights, turned house windows into theatre scrims, poking out light" (Eugenides 264). The fish flies represent an almost literal plague, the plague that only occurs when a death of a Lisbon occurs. Since they cover up the light, and turn the streets dark and covered, the may represent the ignorance of the community, and their failure to observe the happenings that are sadly occurring right on their street.

The boys revisit their childhood while waiting for the final signal from the Lisbon household by waiting in their old tree fort, drinking beer and strawberry wine all throughout the night. Once the signal reaches the boys, they literally dive into action out of their tree house: "Our new height astounded us, and later many said this contributed to our resolve, because for the first time ever, we felt like men" (Eugenides 267). It's a definite timeline throughout the story, watching the young boys being changed to men in the period of a short year. While the girls remain highly unchanged by the boys that love them, the effect that the girls have on the boys is momentous. They go from immature, pubescent boys who watch the girls for fun, to grown up selfless men in love, willing to do anything to save the lives of the girls they admire and treat with the utmost respect. This is not only a coming of age story for the girls, dismayed at entering the sad world of adulthood, but the boys who cross the threshold with them.

An mentioned above, a perplexing incident occurs when Lux meets the boys in the house. She goes to leave, but before she does she takes off Chase Buell's belt and begins to undo his pants. It's an awkward, unexplained moment that is beyond the normal promiscuous inclinations of Lux. Her motivations are unimportant at the moment, but the result is tremendous: "Even though she was doing it to Chase Buell, we could all feel Lux undoing us, reaching out and taking us as she knew we could be taken" (Eugenides 274). This shows that Lux has the power. Lux has always had the power, in all relationships, except that with her parents, with Trip and with herself. From a personal point of view, I feel like Lux treats men the way she does because she is powerless in all other aspects of her life. Sex gives her a false sense of power because it gives her the ability to control men and boys. This power makes her feel as if she is in control of her life. I also think that some people commit suicide to take back the power in their lives...

The state of the Lisbon household also has something to be said for it: "The house had the feel of an attic where junk collects, establishing revolutionary relationships: the toaster in the birdcage, ballet slippers protruding from a wicket creel" (Eugenides 277). This line I find to be quite charming, almost ironic. The relationships of the objects in the house only became closer as the house literally fell apart, though the relationships of the people within the house only got further apart. Instead of spending time together, like the objects which have been so haphazardly tossed together, the family has been isolated and torn apart.

The boys travel downstairs, after waiting several patient minutes for the girls to finish packing. This next scene is somewhat different from the movie version. Ad they descend the staircase, they see the saddest image (in my opinion) the entire novel: "The paper tablecloth, spotted with mice droppings, still covered the card table. A brownish scum of punch lay caked in the glass-cut bowl, sprinkled with flies" (Eugenides 278). It becomes apparent to the reader that the "first and only party" of the LIsbon sisters' short lives was never cleaned up. It remained untouched, as it was when interrupted by Cecilia's untimely fall from her bedroom window. I cannot put my finger on why this is such a painful moment to read. Perhaps it was because it represented the turning point, the point in the lives of the sisters in which they were unquestionably doomed. It was their last moment of innocence, before they were pushed kicking and screaming into the world of adult sorrow and grief because of the death of their sister. To the boys, I also think seeing this party represented what could have been, what might have been a happy healthy life, has Cecilia not been allowed to leave the party, had she not made the choice to end her life.

And of course what was to be discovered next sums it all up....

Words Researched:
Ministrations: The presence of assistance or care. The candles, despite their obvious ministrations, were running out of wax and therefore not burning as brightly. This is symbolistic of the girls' own personal candles running on a short flame at this point in the novel.
Conjectures: A conclusion or opinion that is based on incomplete information. A peach pit left on Lux's bedside table led people to draw all sorts of conjectures
Crepuscular: Resembling twilight. The air smelt like the twilight smell of the Lisbon house.
Reverie: The state of being lost in one's pleasant thoughts. The boys have an intense reverie as they wait for the girls. They dream of where they will go, and how they will be free and happy with the four young women.
Intermittently: Occurring at irregular times. the drain in the Lisbon basement sucked water irregularly.

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