The Lisbon Girls’ Only Escape
From the Lies of a Dying Society
One of the major underlying themes in The Virgin Suicides is the idea of a dying society, dying not from disease, but from boredom and conformity, not a physical death, but a cultural death, a spiritual death. We see death in the dying fish flies, the dying Elm trees as well as the Lisbon girls. The perspective of the world in the novel is cruelly and unrealistically pessimistic. The “…town is covered by the flotsam of those ephemeral insects. Rising in clouds from the algae in the polluted lake…flying scum” (4). But is not just fish flies that are polluting this town. Life itself in the Suburbs is morally and ...view middle of the document...
The boys thought she had somehow communicated with the girls, “advising” them, “’Don’t waste your time on life’” (173). She seemed to know that the world had “…been dying for years” (174). She seemed to know that in this corrupt world of lies called the Suburbs everything was already dead. The Lisbon girls seemed to know this too.
With all the conformity of life in Suburbia comes boredom. Again and again we see the neighbors occupying their time by keeping their lawns in pristine condition. The boys told us “at the end of the day we stood at the curbside surveying our lawns where every blade had been flattened, every dirt clod obliterated…” (91). Another neighbor, Uncle Tucker, spends his evenings drinking and observing the neighborhood late into the night. As if his alcoholism isn’t enough to significantly demonstrate his boredom, one night the boys “…see Uncle Tucker emerge, holding a piece of linoleum from the thirteenth layer he was installing to fill up the hours of his life” (204). This cookie-cutter style life, needing everything to be uniform and the same day after day in the Suburbs takes the spontaneity, the spice, and essentially the meaning out of life, leaving society in the midst of more of a wasteland than that from which they were originally trying to escape.
The Lisbon’s lived in “a comfortable suburban home” (5). But life in Suburbia was a lie. The Lisbon girls must have recognized the absurdity of trying to live such a lie, trying to pretend that everything was perfect in an imperfect world. Not being able to ignore this truth, the girls chose not to live the lie. They rebelled against the conformity of society and society’s inability to deal with reality. Their choice of rebellion was suicide, which by society’s standards was taboo. But what better way for them to rebel than by doing the unthinkable. And besides, what would life have been for them in the suburbs? The girls would have been forced to be like the pruned trees awaiting execution from the parks department, “creatures clubbed mute, only its sudden voicelesssness making us realize it had been speaking all along” (179). By rebelling against society in suicide the girls found a voice and used that voice to scream out against conformity as if to say “look what this life is doing to us; it is killing us all.” Sadly it seems still no one heard them. They might also have been attempting to have their voices heard by reminding us all that we are individuals and do not have to conform to society’s standards.
The Lisbon girls cried out to the world before the suicides, but sadly no one heard them. The boys seem to realize this for a brief moment when they say, “thinking back, we decided the girls had been trying to talk to us all along, to elicit our help, but we’d been too infatuated to listen” (199). And so the Lisbon girl’s cries for help before the suicides were with silent voices. The suicides however were a crying out, a wake up call to those living around...