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The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides - Essay Example

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Introduction The Virgin Suicides is a haunting yet funny novel set in the 1970s about five sisters, the boys who admired them from afar, and the sisters’ suicides. There are number of themes that run throughout the book, but one of themes is that then narrators do not know what compelled the sisters to take their own lives…
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Download file to see previous pages The parents were afraid of the girls’ independence, and showed signs that they wished for Victorian moralities for their daughters, for the parents were also afraid that the girls would capitalize on their budding sexuality. As these fears drove the parents to the drastic measures of virtually imprisoning the girls, and the girls’ suicide was probably a result of this decision, it can be said that the parents fears of letting the girls be independent and to experiment with boys were the key decisions that led to the girls’s suicides. Discussion One of the themes of the novel is the lack of independence of the girls, and the parents’ desperate attempt to subvert any sense of independence that the girls might have had. This is a theme that is found in the book and in life, for much has been written about how women should be weak, and docile, not strong and independent, and this apparently is what motivated the Lisbon parents. According to Simone De Beauvoir (1949) the appearance of femininity is one of docility, futility and weakness, and that “to please they must abdicate” (De Beauvoir, 1949, p. 353). This is shown by an examination of great novels, such as Little Women, The Last of the Mohicans and The Mill on the Floss. In each of these novels, the tomboyish, independent woman is pushed aside, romantically, by the protagonist boy. According to De Beauvoir, this is proof that passive, servile women are preferred to their independent sisters (De Beauvoir, 1949, p. 352). Alex de Tocqueville felt that women entered confining marriage, and that these women gave up their sense of independence “It may be said that she has learned by the use of her independence to surrender it without a struggle” (Faludi, 1991, p. 48). Another theme in the book is the tamping down of nascent sexuality. De Beauvoir contends that adolescent girls cope with the changes that are bestowed upon them by becoming the coquette, as they were in childhood. They accomplish this by doing their makeup and hair, massaging her breasts to make them grow, and studying her smile in the mirror. This awakens an eroticism in the young girl and the young adolescent boy. However, for the adolescent boy, this awakening eroticism is a badge of honor – of “transcendence and power” (De Beauvoir, 1949, p. 349). For the adolescent girl, this awakening causes the girl to “retain a cast of shame” (De Beauvoir, 1949, p. 349). In other words, it is perfectly normal for a girl to want to become feminine and use her feminine wiles as she reaches puberty, and this was something that was denied by Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon, especially Mrs. Lisbon. At the same time, acting upon the newfound eroticism is a cause for censure. This is in line with the Lisbon’s parents’ beliefs about their daughters, for any hint of sexuality was extinguished before it could even come into fruition. The Lisbon parents made sure of this by not allowing the girls to go out with boys. There is every indication that the parents in The Virgin Suicides had these antiquated beliefs, that the girls should not have independence and should not realize their sexuality, despite the fact that the novel takes place during the early to mid 1970s. This was an era that was marked by change in the female situation – women were helping to forge anti-discrimination policies and policies regarding equal ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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