Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Suicide of Mary Lisbon

Mary, the second oldest, is the second last girl to commit suicide, putting her head in the oven when she hears Bonnie kick her suitcase over.

"They found Mary in the kitchen, not dead but nearly so, her head and torso thrust into the oven as though she was scrubbing it" (Eugenides 284).
 In my opinion, this way of attempting suicide is a sad commentary on the role of women in this society. Perhaps Mary felt constricted by her roles as a woman, and the things that were expected of her as a female of conservative parents living in the seventies; however this is just speculation. Most likely she chose this method because, again, it was quick and relatively clean.

"Technically Mary survived for more than a month, though everyone felt otherwise" (Eugenides 285).
I feel the most empathy for Mary. Not only is she alive after a failed suicide attempt and has to answer to doctors, the community and her parents, but she no longer has her emotional life force, her sisters. She has to live on while they are dead. Though I don't condone suicide really, I feel awful that Mary survived the ordeal. Obviously, she has died inside, and might as well have died. In fact, Eugenides mentions that "everyone thought otherwise," as in they counted her as dead anyways.

"He ran Mary through the same battery of tests Cecilia had taken, but found no evidence of a psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia or manic depression" (Eugenides 302).
I very much applaud this notion in the book. Much of the community was under the impression that the girls, specifically Cecilia were "crazy" or had some sort of illness. They were not clinically ill and they were not insane. They were merely sad young girls, and society has a difficulty understanding or accepting that fact.

"She slept late, spoke little and took six showers a day" (Eugenides)
The relevancy of the six showers a day is peculiar to me. Perhaps Mary is so deep in grief that she feels almost like Lady Macbeth, washing and scrubbing to try to remove the memory of her sisters, the guilt she must feel for living while they died, and the sadness knowing that they have left this world without her. She may spend time in the shower because it is her time of isolation or her time of comfort.

"Mary went down the street and took her first voice lesson from Mr Jessup in a year" (Eugenides  304).
Right after her suicide, Mary takes a singular unpaid vocal lesson from the music teacher down the street that she used to visit regularly. I remember that she was at a vocal lesson in the beginning of the book, while Cecilia had tried to commit suicide for the first time. The vocal lesson almost symbolizes her wanting to reach out, to say something important to the people in her community. It's almost as if she wanted to tell the world about her sisters, to be heard instead of judged for once.

"Mary sang the Nazi song from Cabaret" (Eugenides 304).
The only "nazi" song that comes to mind from Cabaret is "Tomorrow Belongs to Me," sung by the brigade of nazis at one point in the show. The lyrics describe a feeling of new faith, and of working together to create a better future in a new tomorrow. Obviously it has some very serious undertones, as it is sung by the nazis, whose tomorrow means death and destruction for the rest of Europe. Mary may be singing this song because of the outside it expresses feeling of positivity and happiness, but in the context of her singing it, she is referring to her darker purpose. Tomorrow belongs to her; she will finally get to die.

"The last Lisbon daughter, in a sleeping bag, and full of sleeping pills" (Eugenides 309).
Mary Lisbon chose to go like her eldest sister Therese, most likely because it was the most undetectable way of quietly ending her life.


  1. Always thought the extended survival and eventual final suicide of Mary (in the novel obviously, not present in the film) was heavily under-analyzed, and I stumbled upon this when trying to find places that had analyzed it. Very cool. This is a very cool blog in general, I am haunted by both the book and the film. Do you still maintain this?

  2. At some point Mary Lisbon is the main character of Virgin Suicides.