The neighborhood begins to decline. Gradually, the Parks Department removes all the trees, including the Lisbons' stump, leaving the suburb flat and glaringly bright. The boys themselves grow older, and though some of them leave the suburb, most eventually return. They are aware that their knowledge of the Lisbon girls, imperfect to begin with, is fading away, just as their precious artifacts of the girls' lives begin to rot, fade, and decay. Yet even from middle age, the boys remain haunted by what they see as the audacity and incomprehensible selfishness of the five suicides.

It didn't matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn't heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.


The resolution of the cemetery workers' strike, which began shortly before Cecilia's suicide and ends on the day of Mary's suicide, gives the final Lisbon daughter's death an air of tragic and narrative closure. Its horror now exhausted, the earth will once more consent to receive its own. The book's closure is also achieved by the careful juxtaposition of Cecilia's and Mary's deaths, the first and last Lisbon suicides, which frame the narrative like a question and its response. Both Mary and Cecilia were unsuccessful in their first suicide attempt, and successful on their second, a month later. Mary's obsessive showering recalls Cecilia's obsessive bathing, and both suggest a kind of ritual purification. The neighborhood's silence in the weeks after Cecilia's death is eerily echoed by its refusal to acknowledge the last month of Mary's life. More broadly, the air of certain death that seems to haunt Mary's last month suggests the inescapable force of tragedy, which must be allowed to run its course before the curse is lifted. However, given the strength of both the neighbors' and the reader's expectations that Mary's death will occur, the novel suggests that Fate itself can simply be a manifestation of the community's beliefs and fears. Public opinion in Virgin Suicides echoes the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy, which served as a vocal moral compass and explicitly told the reader about the play's hierarchy of horror and retribution. It is only after Mary's death that the reader's comfortable sense of narrative closure will be eroded by the boys' description of the neighborhood's continual decay, strikingly symbolized by the loss of its trees.

In a further attempt at closure, the psychiatrist, Dr. Hornicker, and the reporter, Ms. Perl, try to rationalize the horror of the girls' acts. Dr. Hornicker reasons that the girls' suicidal behavior was due to a chemical imbalance in the body—one that is easily diagnosed and treated—and suggests that suicide is both predictable and preventable. Ms. Perl describes the deaths as a pact, timed to coincide with an astrological event, thus raising the suicides to the level of the absurd. Both explanations serve to calm suburban parents worries that their children may be next, and to allay fears that the girls' deaths imply a larger social problem. Neither a treatable condition nor a statistical aberrance is truly threatening, and thus the community's guilt is alleviated and status quo is reaffirmed. Put otherwise, both psychiatrist and reporter reassure that neither suburban society nor its institutions are rotten at the core. Instead, the problem can be confined entirely to the Lisbon house, and to the bodies of its five young inhabitants.

Finally, the house's quick sale makes an ironic point about the American popular consciousness, in which tragedy is notable for its sensation, not its permanence. It is not clear whether the new couple knows of the house's history, but they evidently either do not care or do not care to know. Like the country itself, the couple is quite young and has a relatively short memory. In the Greek tragic tradition, the site of Agamemnon's palace at Mycenae, where a noble family met its end after the Trojan War, is still considered cursed. In Eugenides' America, history is not adhesive: it lingers in the mind, but not in the landscape. Memory is a flimsy and faulty thing, as the boys acknowledge. Their mental images of the Lisbon girls have not survived any better than the crumbling photographs of the tree house, and in most cases, their memories have decayed more. The boys attempt to witness the truth about the Lisbon girls, that is, to look around the neighborhood, letting their gaze conjure up its object's past. But in so doing, they are starkly aware of the paucity of their attempts and the failure of their comprehension. The body is no more a place of enduring truth than the Lisbon home or the carefully plotted grave. The sensation gone, the boys are left with its fading shadow, certain only of the immensity of their loss and the depth of their despair.