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Awkwardly and belatedly, the community attempts to reach out to the Lisbon household following Cecilia's death. Most send flowers. The few fathers that attempt personal calls to the Lisbon household find Mr. Lisbon obsessively watching baseball and Mrs. Lisbon in her bedroom, not receiving visitors. The house has fallen into disarray, coated with dust balls and half-eaten food. Father Moody, the local priest, is the only one who speaks personally with the girls, declaring them "buffeted but not broken." Meanwhile, the girls' suffering only makes them more fascinating to the neighborhood boys.
Hoping to prevent further tragedy, the neighborhood men get together and remove the "dangerous" fence on which Cecilia had jumped. With the fence gone, the neighborhood feels much better, and they begin a belated spring-cleaning. The boys work hard sweeping the summer's accumulation of dead bugs from their own houses and from the Lisbons'. Mr. Lisbon emerges to thank them. Returning inside, as he will tell the boys years later, Mr. Lisbon finds Therese eating candy and realizes that his children are strangers. Mounting the stairs to the second floor, he sees Cecilia's window still open, attended by Cecilia's ghost. Rushing to close the window, he realizes that the ghost is only his daughter, Bonnie, wrapped in a sheet.
In August Dr. Hornicker calls the Lisbons for a second consultation, but they do not go. Mrs. Lisbon begins taking charge of the house, as Mr. Lisbon seems to withdraw even further, sneaking unkempt out of the house in the morning on his way to the high school, where he teaches math. On Convocation, September 7, the four Lisbon sisters appear at school in last year's clothes as if nothing had happened over the summer. Over the next few weeks, the girls keep to themselves. Their friends are uncomfortable because of the tragedy, and give them space. Meanwhile, Mr. Lisbon arrives early to school each day and seems to throw himself into his work.
Although the Lisbons do not allow their daughters to date, Lux manages to have various secret short-term relationships. Her tryst with Trip Fontaine, the high school dream boy, trumps them all. One fateful day, Trip ducks into the wrong history class to avoid the principal and sits down behind Lux Lisbon. When she turns to look at him, Trip falls into love, 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.
On Sunday, Trip arrives and is ushered to a seat on the couch beside Mrs. Lisbon, where he sits until the family tires of the Walt Disney special and calls it a night. Trip returns mournfully to his car, envisioning a future of watching television beside Mrs. Lisbon, as Lux remains infinitely inaccessible. Suddenly Lux appears in Trip's car in a flannel nightgown, desperately kissing him, and after several life-altering moments WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?, flees back into the house. Lux is grounded, while Trip feels the agony of not being near her.
Trip's courtship of Lux exposes the values and rules of suburban society. Despite the changes that occurred in the '60s and the growth of the womens' movement, suburbia remains a bastion of the old patriarchic order. Men go to work, rake the yard, lift heavy things, and act as head of family, while women confine themselves to the home, cooking, cleaning and childrearing. Showing the power that men enjoy, Trip's plan to win Lux requires that he ask her father if he can take her out. The idea is absurd, not simply because of the Lisbon's restrictions on dating, but more importantly because Mr. Lisbon is in no position to give consent. It is Mrs. Lisbon, not he, who has clear and final say over the girls' lives and the family's rules. In patriarchal suburbia, Mr. Lisbon's failure to control his household brands him a failed father, an inadequate male, and as something less than a man. The image that emerges in this chapter and the next is of Mrs. Lisbon as an unfeminine tyrant. Likewise, the image of Mrs. Lisbon reflects the suburban belief that no real woman would consent to play such an unflattering gender role.
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