Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides Essay

2917 words - 12 pages

The Virgin Suicides is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel written in 1993 by Jeffrey Eugenides. It was his debut novel. It centers on a group of unnamed neighborhood boys who are captivated by the five mysterious Lisbon sisters. The book was critically acclaimed for its unique first person plural narrative and received numerous awards. The book originally appeared as a short story that won an Aga Khan Prize for Fiction in 1991. The short story eventually developed into the first chapter of The Virgin Suicides. In 1999, the book was adapted into a film by renowned director Sofia Coppola. It has appeared on numerous “Must read” lists including, one by actor James Franco, and another by author Patrick Ness. In the novel, Eugenides explores the lives of the Lisbon family, the neighborhood boys, and Trip Fontaine.
The Lisbon family has always been a source of fascination to their 1960s suburban neighborhood. Mr. Lisbon, a high school math teacher, has trouble socializing with the other neighborhood fathers and Mrs. Lisbon, a religious fanatic, does not allow her daughters to wear makeup or anything deemed scandalous (Griffith). Kenneth Womack stated, “Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon exert a similar, if not more totalitarian sense of parental control as their five daughters plunge into the enervating throes of adolescence. The Lisbon parents, jostled by fears of the rampant promiscuity sometimes desired by pubescent girls en route to sexual maturity, inhibit excessive amounts of social interaction between their daughters and others in their age bracket of the opposite sex.” After the suicides of the Lisbon daughters, many people hold the parents to blame, including themselves. This guilt eventually leads to their divorce years later; something the Catholic Mrs. Lisbon finds particularly shameful (Shostak).
Cecelia, the youngest of the five sisters, is the catalyst for the suicides. Her death is what causes everything in the Lisbon household to change, and eventually leads to her sister’s deaths. The book opens with Cecelia bleeding out in a bathtub, having slit her wrists. The two paramedics that come to take her away are so distraught by her serenity that they are incapable of moving until Mrs. Lisbon runs, screaming, into the room. Cecelia is immediately rushed to the hospital and survives this initial attempt on her life. After she is declared stable, the doctor asks Cecelia “What are you doing here, honey? You’re not even old enough to know how bad life gets.” and in Cecelia’s aloof manner, she simply replies; “Obviously, Doctor, you’ve never been a thirteen year old girl” (Eugenides 8) At the urging of Cecelia’s psychiatrist, the Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon agree to throw a party at their home, to allow Cecelia a chance to meet other kids her own age. During the party, Cecelia excuses herself. While her entire family is at the party downstairs, Cecelia makes the slow trek up to her bedroom, where she throws herself out of her bedroom window, onto the spiked fence that...

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