Virgin Suicides

by: Jeffrey Eugenides

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

"Do we seem as crazy as everyone thinks?" "Who thinks that?" She didn't reply, only stuck her hand out the door to test for rain. "Cecilia was weird, but we're not." And then: "We just want to live. If anyone would let us."

This exchange takes place between Therese and Kevin Head at Homecoming, near the end of Chapter Three. Trip Fontaine has found three boys to take each of the three other Lisbon girls to Homecoming so that he will be allowed to go with Lux, a rare concession from strict Mrs. Lisbon. Though the girls attend the dance in shapeless homemade dresses, and their hair unnaturally coiffed, the boys find them radiant: healthy, normal, feminine, and very much alive. In the larger narrative, these brief hours of Homecoming echo Cecilia's ill-fated party and foreshadow the fateful night of June 15, the two other occasions on which the neighborhood boys interact directly with the Lisbon girls. Set against the tragedy of those two events, the girls' happiness at Homecoming is particularly poignant. Yet these glorious hours are also the only time the boys directly interact with the girls in an environment outside their house, suggesting that the girls' deadly tendencies are a matter of external pressure and not intrinsic tendency. Also significant is that for the duration of leaving home, the Lisbon girls seem to make a full recovery from their stifling environment.

Evidence for the power of environment is implicit in this passage. Here, Therese's words represent the only time that any of the sisters publicly discuss Cecilia's suicide. While neighborhood opinion will later hold that Cecilia's suicide was "infectious," spreading irrevocably to her sisters, this exchange indicates that the four older sisters' suicide was not always inevitable. Instead, the forces of fate, parents, and suburban opinion will gradually conspire to leave the girls with no other choice. Likewise, by using the generic worlds "everyone" and "anyone," Therese suggests that she and her sisters are being stereotyped by a nameless collective. The force of collective opinion has the power to restrict the girls' ability "to live," hinting that the sisters' eventual deaths are not simply individual acts of self-destruction, but also necessary fulfillments of the community's morbid expectations.