Virgin Suicides

by: Jeffrey Eugenides

Trip Fontaine

Characters Trip Fontaine

Trip is the epitome of suburban masculinity, and his emergence from baby fat is heralded by neighborhood girls and mothers alike. Trip comes into his own after a trip to Acapulco with his father and his father's lover Donald, where he is initiated into the mysteries of love and alcohol by a lonely divorcée. Ever since that fateful trip, Trip's life has been a whirlwind of substance abuse and naked women. The neighborhood boys watch in awe as his style and swagger command droves of admiring girls who bake him food, warm his bed, and leave sweaty notes in his car. Trip's virility sets him against the effeminate Mr. Lisbon but also against the boys themselves. As virgins, awkward in their teenage skins, the boys envy Trip his rugged grace and testosterone halo, realizing that life is patently unfair.

Trip's relationship with his father is different than that of the boys' relationships with their dads. Trip and his father treat one another as equals, sunbathing together in the pool and turning a blind eye to each other's erotic adventures. In the Lisbons' era, and for years thereafter in the American heartland, Mr. Fontaine's homosexuality would have been strictly taboo. It is perhaps for this reason that Trip always respects the privacy of love and refuses to discuss a single detail of his sexual exploits with the other boys. This peculiar and gentlemanly discretion assures Trip a constant stream of female admirers. It also sets him sharply against the narrators, whose love for the Lisbon girls prompts them to endlessly analyze every detail they can find. In the end, however, only Trip sleeps with Lux, while the loose-lipped narrators do not even touch her. This outcome suggests that the narrators' words serve as a kind of substitute for an actual sexual experience, and that the actuality of such an experience might lie beyond the power of words to describe.

More generally, Trip's drugs, alcohol, hairspray, and hot rod are symbols of new American suburban masculinity. His burgeoning drug trade suggests that Trip is a self-made man, and this endeavor frees him from the restraints of high school. His epicurean love of women suggests the refined taste and conspicuous consumption of the affluent American playboy, while his discretion marks him as a gentleman. Trip's years spent in detox, recovering from his youth, seem a fitting price to pay for living the American dream. Even his postcoital abandonment of Lux on Homecoming night, Trip's least sympathetic moment, is explained with the prototypically American excuse that he just suddenly got sick of her. The American hero need never worry his attention span, even for so fragile a thing as love.