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"The Trees, like Lungs, filling with Air, my Sister, the Mean one, pulling my Hair..." -The Virgin Suicides (1993)

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"The Virgin Suicides"Edit

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"The Virgin Suicides " is a highly praised 1993 debut novel by successful American writer Jeffrey Eugenides, (same author of the well received novel "Middlesex").

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The Lisbon sisters.

The story, which is set in Grosse Pointe, Michigan suburbia roughly in the mid-1970s, centers around the bizzare and haunting suicides of five beautiful American teenage sisters known as the Lisbons. Their legendary and unexplained suicides fascinated their community as their neighbors struggled to find an explanation for their shocking acts. Twenty-something-years later, there are still many unanswered questions that remain unresolved but the entrancing, enigmatic personalities of the sisters are still engraved in the minds and hearts of the adolescent neighborhood boys who's unrequited love for them changed their lives forever. As full grown men with wives and families of their own, they still have secretly remained faithful to the Lisbon girls and have vowed to tell the girl's story and do them justice; desperately retracing the Lisbon's steps in an obsessive investigation and attempt to analyse the several mysterious events in hopes of finding an answer, to what specifically lead the doomed sisters to their sad fates all those years ago.

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Original 1993 Book Cover Edition.

In circa 1999 the book was adapted into an acclaimed debut art-film by director Sofia Coppola which is now a modern cult classic. The movie starred actress Kirsten Dunst as the most rebellious sister and focal point character, Lux Lisbon and actor Josh Hartnett as Lux's short-lived romance, but true love, Trip Fontaine.

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You're my Playground Love<3

The Five Glittering Daughters...Edit

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The trees, like lungs filling with air, my sister the mean one, pulling my hair...

"The two Lisbon parents, leached of color, like photographic negatives. Then, the five glittering daughters, in their homemade dresses, all lace and ruffle, their hidden skin, bursting with their fructifying flesh..." -The Virgin Suicides (1993)

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The Lisbon Sisters

Michigan, Circa 1975...

In a decaying, upper-middle class suburb filled with dying fish flies and dying elm trees on the outskirts of Detroit, the Lisbons are a Catholic family of seven. Mr. Lisbon is a geeky math teacher who teaches at the local private school and Mrs. Lisbon is a very strict and square homemaker. The parents have five daughters: 13-year-old Cecilia, the dreamer, 14-year-old Lux, the rebel, 15-year-old Bonnie, the saint, 16-year-old Mary the girly girl, and 17-year-old Therese, the scholar. The mystique of the Lisbon girls is not told through the girl's perspective but told from the perspective of the love-strucked neighborhood boys who lived on the same block as the Lisbons and attended the same school as the girls.

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Elm-Lined streets of middle America suburbia.

As the anonymous narrators of the novel, the boys describe the girls who are only seen at a distance as all incredibly beautiful, short in height and having long blonde hair, and being round buttocks in demin.

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Lux's pink bra hangs over Cecilia's wooden crucifix.

We felt the imprisonment of being a girl, the way it made your mind active and dreamy, and how you ended up knowing which colors went together. We knew that the girls were our twins, that we all existed in space like animals with identical skins, and that they knew everything about us though we couldn’t fathom them at all. We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them. -The Virgin Suicides (1993)

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The Lisbons lives change dramatically within one summer when Cecilia, a girl described as a "kook" and a "misfit", who bites her nails while obsessively wearing an ill fitting 1920's vintage wedding dress, attempts suicide by cutting her wrists open in the bathtub with her father's shaving razor. She is found in time by a boy named Paul Baldino and she is rushed to the hospital and survives the attempt. After visiting Cecilia's therapist, the Lisbon parents are advised to let their daughters have more freedom outside the confinement of their home. And to be given more opportunities to interact with males their own age other than just at school; believing this will be healthier for the girls who are somewhat kept on a tight leash.

A few weeks later, a slightly awkward chaperoned basement party is thrown and the Lisbons invite the local neighborhood boys over. When the boys arrive they finally can see the authenticity of each girl, but the boys confess it is Lux Lisbon who is undeniably the most beautiful and ideal sister, and describe her as a "Carnal-Angel". Shortly after the arrival of "Joe the Retard" (a boy diagnosed with Down Syndrome) Cecilia asks her mother to be excused from the party and walks upstairs. Several minutes later the party hears a sound of wind followed by a moist thud. Mrs. Lisbon screams. Mr. Lisbon runs upstairs to find that Cecilia has jumped from her second story bedroom window and impaled herself on the sharp iron spikes of the fence post just below. The boys run to the lawn just in time to see the dead girl in her fluttering wedding dress in the wind, balanced cleanly on the spike with her eyes open, as Mr. Lisbon tries gently and unsuccessfully to lift her off. Meanwhile, an overprotective Mrs. Lisbon forces her four other daughters to face the opposite direction and not witnesses the horrid scene.

The cause of Cecilia's suicide and its after-effects on the Lisbon family are popular subject of neighborhood gossip. Shortly after Cecilia's wake, the boys get ahold of her Diary, which they discover is filled with short poems and random entries. The boys also find it interesting that Cecilia refers to her and her sisters as one entity, thus concluding that Cecilia was a "dreamer" who was completely out of touch with reality.

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Inside Cecilia's Diary

Basically what we have here is a dreamer. Somebody out of touch with reality. When she jumped, she probably thought she'd fly -The Virgin Suicides (1993)

Cecilia's death only makes the boys more curious about her life and those of her sisters. Unable to truly fathom them, the boys passionately begin to heavily day dream and fantasize about the Lisbon sisters in luminous and gauzy settings wondering what the girls are exactly feeling. As the summer carries on, the Lisbon girls run wildly and freely in the boys imaginations like fleeting visions, unfathomable, unattainable and unforgettable.

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AIR "Playground Love".

We knew, finally, that the girls were really women in disguise, that they understood love and even death, and that our job was merely to create the noise that seemed to fascinate them. -The Virgins Suicides (1993)

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Lux Lisbon

When summer is over school begins, and the four remaining Lisbon girls attend class with their peers as if nothing ever happened. Over the next few weeks, the girls keep to themselves. The few friends that the girls do have at school, become uncomfortable because of the tragedy, and give them space. Even though the Lisbons do not allow their daughters to date, Lux Lisbon secretly begins a hot and heavy romance with local heartthrob and teen womanizer Trip Fontaine. When Trip first met Lux he declared it was love at first sight, a feeling from which he will never recover. He wanders the halls dreaming of her, but has no idea how to pursue her, having always been the one pursued. He gets his chance at a school assembly. Sitting beside her, he whispers that he will come watch television at her house on Sunday, and then ask her father if he can take her out. After an uncomfortable visit, Trip negotiates with the overprotective Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon to take Lux to a Homecoming dance, on the condition that he finds dates for the other three girls.

Successfully providing three other dates, on the evening of Homecoming, the boys drive together up to the Lisbon house. Lux, waiting on the porch, rings her doorbell to warn the other girls, and then rushes inside. As the boys enter the house, the girls appear in shapeless homemade dresses, with their hair overly teased. Once they are in the car on the way to the dance, the girls begin to talk, laugh and gossip. The boys realize that the Lisbon sisters are actually perfectly normal. At the dance, the girls make seven trips to the bathroom, but otherwise dance and flirt with the adoring boys and fellow peers. Trip and Lux, followed by Joe and Bonnie, sneak under the streamer strung bleachers to drink peach schnapps and make out, before emerging again to dance. Everyone applauds when Trip and Lux are voted Homecoming King and Queen.

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Playground Love

Mary tells one boy that she is having the best time of her life. After the dance, Trip and Lux are nowhere to be found. The other three couples wait until 10:50 P.M. before driving home. Lux does not come home until early morning, arriving in a cab just as dawn breaks. Years later, Trip will explain to the boys that he persuaded Lux to sneak out of the dance and out onto the football field, where they made love on the goal line. Then Trip abandoned her to walk home. Despite Trip's feelings for Lux, he will explain to the boys that at that particular moment he just got sick of her.

At 1:30 A.M. on Homecoming night, the boys, still heady from their date, decide to drive past the Lisbon house once more. They see a single light in the girl's bedroom window. A shade is pulled back, and a hand reaches out and a palm touches the glass as the light goes out. The boys realize, deep down, that something has just gone very wrong.

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Trip

Consequently as punishment, the Lisbons become recluses as Mrs. Lisbon pulls all her daughters out of school, believing that it would help the girls recover from Cecilia's death. The following Sunday, after church, Mrs. Lisbon forces Lux to destroy her rock records. Besides family trips to church, and Mr. Lisbon's trips to school, no one is ever seen leaving the house. As the weather turns cold, the boys begin to notice Lux on the roof of the Lisbon house copulating with random men. No one knows how Lux meets these men, or how she manages to sneak them up onto the roof at night without her parents' knowledge. Some of these men tell the boys stories of being led through a dark house full of rotting and congealed food and empty cans, indicating that Mrs. Lisbon has stopped cooking and cleaning entirely. The men all speak of Lux's incredible presence, likening her to an angel. Yet they report that she often seemed bored by the sex itself, and speculate her ultimate motive. The boys, who are virgins, watch incredulously with binoculars, haunted by the fantastic image of Lux in the act of love. A few months after Lux is sent to the hospital because of a pregnancy scare (which her parents were told was simply indigestion)

Eventually Mr. Lisbon is fired from his teaching job. And a very strange rotting smell coming from the Lisbon house permeates the entire block on the neighborhood. From a safe distance, all the people in the neighborhood watch the Lisbons' lives deteriorate, but no one can summon up the courage to help or intervene.

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The Lisbon House

Months pass by, and the Lisbons sink futher and further into a virtual state of limbo and isolation, yet they become increasingly fascinating to the neighborhood in general as everyone notices that the girls have turned Cecilia's second story bedroom window into a holy shrine, cluttered with dozens of burning candles and holy items. The boys eventually think of a way to make contact with the Lisbon girls and decide to call them to communicate by playing records over the telephone for the girls. Unable to find the right words to express their feelings, they say it through music.

Though the boys have intended to remain true to the Lisbon girls, they are troubled that their memories and experiences of the sisters are slipping away as the spring progresses. A year after Cecilia's death, the boys still do not know why she committed suicide, nor the sisters' true feelings about the suicide. Finally, the girls send a message to the boys to come to the their house at midnight to help them escape. Shortly after the boys arrive they meet Lux who is all alone, and calmly smoking a cigarette in a bean bag chair. She tells the boys to wait quietly inside for her sisters to come while she leaves the house to go into the garage to "start the car", leaving the boys to believe they will flee cross country with the girls and elope. But the boy's fantasies are shattered when they witness three of the Lisbon sisters kill themselves: Bonnie hangs herself, Therese overdoses on sleeping pills and Mary put her head in the gas oven. Meanwhile, Lux dies of carbon monoxide poisoning in the sealed garage with the station wagon left on. Disillusioned, the boys immediately flee the Lisbon house, horrified by what they have just witnessed and run back to their homes.

The traumatized boys dont understand why the girls would have them participate in their suicides. The Lisbon girls could easily have killed themselves without inviting the boys to witness. The girl's invitation to the boys seems to be a cruel joke, designed only to confront the boys with their own inadequacy and ignorance. Yet the novel as a whole, and the girl's careful preparations, suggest a motive more profound than shallow cruelty. Instead, it was a test. Had the boys not come, the boys could have spent the subsequent years telling themselves "I could have saved her if I'd been there." But the boys were there, sitting in the living room, too caught up in their own fantasies to notice that the girls were killing themselves in the surrounding darkness. The boys not picking up on the fact that the Lisbon girls were killing themselves only intensifies the horrors that the girls were actually experiencing alone. Thus, by letting the boys fail to stop their suicides, the girls assert their independence, but also suggest the countless times in which the boys have failed them before, and will continue to fail them after death.

Mary survives her suicide attempt and continues to live for another month spending her time sleeping and obsessively showering before successfully ending her life by taking sleeping pills like Therese on the same day as another girl's Debutante party. Seemingly unsure how to react, the adults in the community go about their lives as if nothing ever happened or that the Lisbons ever even lived there. Newspaper writer Lydia Perl notes that the suicides come a year after Cecilia's first attempt. And describes the Lisbon sisters as creatures so shut off from life that death was hardly a change.

After the suicide "free-for-all," a devastated Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon sell the house and give up any attempt to lead a normal life as they flee the neighborhood, never to return. The house is sold to a young couple from the Boston area and most of the Lisbons' personal belongings are either thrown out or sold in a garage sale. The narrators scavenge through the trash to collect much of the "evidence" they mention, collecting whatever they could find and save these items like valuable souvenirs.

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Empty House

They had killed themselves over our dying forests, over manatees maimed by propellers as they surfaced to drink from garden hoses; they had killed themselves at the sight of used tires stacked higher than the pyramids; they had killed themselves over the failure to find a love none of us could ever be. In the end, the tortures tearing the Lisbon girls pointed to a simple reasoned refusal to accept the world as it was handed down to them, so full of flaws. -The Virgin Suicides

Twenty years later the boys are still obsessed with the girls who they feel were selfish for killing themselves. But they claim to be secretly still in love with all of them despite being middle aged men and having families of their own now. The story ends with the men concluding that they will never be able to put the peices of the five legendary suicides back together and find a satisfying answer to end the mystery surrounding the girls and their tragic actions.

It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together. -The Virgin Suicides (1993)

Personalities & Suicides of the Five Lisbon Sisters...Edit

Cecilia Lisbon

The youngest of the Lisbon girls. Cecilia, age thirteen, is mystical, precocious, shy, and known even by her older sisters as the weird one of the family. She habitually wears an ill-fitting vintage 1920s wedding gown, stained and cut short. She bites her nails, invokes the Virgin Mary, and spends hours listening to wailing Celtic music that she has ordered by mail. In her meticulous diary entries, discovered after her death, Cecilia is remarkably unself-conscious, tending to speak of her sisters and herself as a single entity.

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Cecilia was the first to go...

Cecilia is the first sister to die. She attempts Suicide by slitting her wrist in the bathtub but is unsuccessful. A few weeks later she succeeds to commit Suicide by jumping out her second story bedroom window and lands on the iron fence below. She is stabbed by one of the sharp spikes that goes straight through her heart. It is Cecilia's Suicide that begins the domino effect of the Lisbon tragedies.

"Mr. Lisbon was trying to lift her left breast, traveled through her inexplicable heart, separated two vertebrae without shattering either, and ripping the dress and finding the air again" (Eugenides 37).

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Cecilia

"She had succeeded, on the second try, in hurling herself out of the world." (Eugenides 38).

Lux Lisbon

Skinny, playful, sensual yet completely inaccessible, Lux is the creature of each narrator's wet dream. The boys watch from school windows as she laughs her beautiful laugh at other boys, and from their treehouse as she responds to the house arrest by having sex on her roof with a stream of faceless men. Both her nascent sexuality before Homecoming and her explicitly sexual escapades after impress the neighborhood boys, who claim that all subsequent women in their lives have, in moments of passion, taken Lux's face. To the boys, Lux's seemingly intuitive knowledge of sex suggests an intimacy with the secrets of the world and concomitantly, a familiarity with death. Yet neither the boys nor Lux's partners are able to fathom the depths of her mind, to determine her thoughts on Cecilia's death, or even her motives for anonymous intercourse. Though her partners find her magnificent—a carnal angel—they report that Lux often seems bored by sex, picking zits on her partner's back or looking off into the distance. Yet her presence and sense of purpose lead the men to feel as if they have been insignificant pawns in Lux's higher plan, echoing the boys' feelings on the night of the June fifteen suicides. Furthermore, her insistence upon the sexual act itself, in the winter theater of the Lisbon roof, seems to suggest a will toward both performance and self-destruction, yet these are precisely the characteristics that the narrators most want from Lux. Thus, it is difficult for the reader to discern Lux's true intentions, as they are observed by the boys' desire.

Narratively, the first signs of Lux appear when Peter Sissen, having dinner at the Lisbon house, passes her bedroom en route to the bathroom and sees her bra hung carelessly from a crucifix. Peter emerges from the bathroom and is confronted by Lux, her hair let down, waiting to get a tampon. This twofold evidence of Lux's budding femininity and sexuality impresses Peter and the boys. Likewise, the tantalizing image of her brassiere foreshadows Lux's subsequent promiscuity in the face of Mrs. Lisbon's strict religious regime. Lux next appears at Cecilia's party, where the narrators realize she is the only Lisbon sister truly as beautiful and mischievous as they had imagined. For some time after, Lux's character retreats behind a series of constraints on her femininity. For example, Mrs. Lisbon wipes off Lux's lipstick or sends her inside to change into a less revealing top. In rebellion against these restrictions, the boys see Lux accepting a ride on a motorcycle, and laughing outside the high school with a delinquent boy. But by the middle of Chapter Three, with Cecilia dead, Bonnie, Mary and Therese are given only collective or passing mention, while Lux emerges as a heroine of singular importance.

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Lux abandoned...

Like Trip, whose silence and stature excludes him from the group of neighborhood boys, Lux rarely interacts with girls besides her sisters. Occasionally she will ditch gym to smoke with a friend, but even these few moments cease as the Lisbon sisters' tragedy mounts and the community begins to leave them alone. Yet even among her sisters Lux is strikingly individual, venturing out alone into the risky territories of sex, cigarettes, alcohol, and love. Lux's access to the world of men leaves her as a protective intermediary between her sisters and the neighborhood boys—she waits outside for the boys' car at Homecoming and later stalls the boys while her sisters commit suicide. Lux exists in the threshold between masculine and feminine worlds, Lisbons and outsiders, adulthood and adolescence, life and death, virginity and knowledge, and seems finally to belong to neither extreme even as she seems to alternately typify them. She is impossible to pin down, and wriggles cleverly out from under labels or uses them for her own purposes. Lux's elaborately faked 'burst appendix,' a cover for a pregnancy test, as well as her numerous forged excuse notes at school, indicate her command of charade, leaving both the reader and the boys to wonder about her ultimate motives. Yet she is far more than a trickster, her games suggest an imaginative response to impossibly restrictive rules rather than dishonesty or fraud. She is the most ambiguous and therefore the most human of the sisters, actively fighting to live outside of the rules that restrain her. Lux is ultimately abandoned both by the awed boys and by manly Trip, though they will insist they loved her.

Lux commits Suicide by shutting herself up in the garage with the family station wagon on and dies by poison carbon monoxide. Before Lux went to the garage to seal her fate, she was the sister who stalled the boys so her sisters would not be disturbed while they killed themselves in peace.

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Lux

"They found her in the front seat, grey faced and serene, holding a cigarette lighter that had burned its coils into her palm" (Eugenides 281).

Bonnie Lisbon

The middle child in the Lisbon family. Bonnie, age fifteen, has a sallow complexionedand is a foot taller than any of her sisters, with a sharp nose and long neck. She is quiet, docile, skittish, and exceptionally pious. As the Lisbon house declines, she begins appearing on the porch before dawn, thinner each day, to recite the rosary.

In the basement, the group of neighborhood boys find Bonnie. At first they see a pair of legs swinging from the rafters to look up and see that the dead girl, dressed in a clean pink dress and compared to looking like a festive pinata, has hanged herself with a rope.

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Bonnie

"Above him, in a pink dress, Bonnie looked clean and festive, like a pinata" (Eugenides 280)."

Mary Lisbon

The second oldest of the Lisbon girls. Mary Lisbon, age sixteen, is prim, proper, poised, and spends hours in front of the mirror. Her hair is the darkest of the sisters, and she has a slight mustache and a widow's peak. As the house decays, she attempts to maintain her appearance, and wears bright sweaters to collect the mail.

Mary commits suicide by putting her head in the kitchen oven with the gas on right when she hears Bonnie hang herself.

"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).

Mary's first attempt at death fails but she gets it right on her second try by overdosing on sleeping pills like her older sister Therese roughly a month later. She is found wearing a black dress and veil with her makeup smeared.

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Mary

"The last Lisbon daughter, Mary, in a sleeping bag, and full of sleeping pills" (Eugenides 309).

Therese Lisbon

The oldest of the Lisbon girls. Therese Lisbon, age seventeen, is intellectual, studious, and fascinated by science. She reads textbooks, grows seahorses, attends science conventions, uses a ham radio, and aspires to attend an Ivy League college. Physically, she is more awkward than her sisters, and is described as having a heavy face, the cheeks and eyes of a cow, and two left feet.

Therese's method of choice was overdosing on sleeping pills and gin up in one of the girl's shared bedrooms. The sleeping pills were probably stolen from her mother, who Lux mentions is an insomniac. Interestingly, a few days before her Suicide, Therese had strangely written a letter to the College University she wanted to attend.

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Therese

"Another reporter ended his broadcast by reading a letter Therese had written to the Brown's admissions officer only three days before she put an end to any dreams of college...or of anything else" (Eugenides 291).

The Virgin GalleriesEdit

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The Virgin Suicides Trailer (1999)-002:30

The Virgin Suicides Trailer (1999)-0

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