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Literature / The Virgin Suicides

The Virgin Suicides is a novel by Jeffrey Eugenides about the death of suburbia in the 1970s. The story is told from the point of view of a group of teenage boys who are fixated on the beautiful, sheltered, and enigmatic Lisbon girls: Bonnie, Mary, Lux, Therese and Cecilia. Armed with stolen diaries, photos, an intimate knowledge of the girls' incoming mail, and a telescope, the boys seek to solve the mystery of the girls' existence. The entire book is about the boys trying to find out the motives of the girls and the reason why they come to such an untimely end.

The novel was adapted into a film by Sofia Coppola as her feature-length debut, and the first time she worked with Kirsten Dunst.


  • Abusive Parents: Downplayed, Mrs. Lisbon is strict and Mr. Lisbon is inept, but the narrative does not spend much time holding them culpable and there are many moments where they do display love toward their daughters and have a difficult time recovering from their deaths.
  • Adult Fear: As incompetent parents as they were, it's hard not to sympathize with the Lisbon parents and they are shown to be clearly suffering long after their daughters' death. In the film adaptation, Mrs. Lisbon worriedly almost runs after the ambulance that takes Cecilia away, clutching her daughter's bedrobe, unsure of what to do.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Despite setting Lux as the main character, Sofia Coppola's 1999 version is very loyal to the novel.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: An early speculation about Cecilia's attitude toward Dominic though it later gets rather debunked by her diary entry.
  • Aww, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: When the girls run out to protect their tree from being cut down, the boys note that this was one of the few times they seen Mr. Lisbon hold Mrs. Lisbon in affection. Likewise, Mrs. Lisbon tells the yard workers that her girls have a right to stand there.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Trip Fontaine, designated pot-smoking Mr. Fanservice.
  • Bath Suicide: Subverted. Cecilia attempts this, but survives.
  • Bungled Suicide:
    • Aformentioned Cecilia.
    • Also - Dominic Palazzolo, who jumps off the roof yet fails to die. Unlike Cecilia, he doesn't seem to fazed by his continued existence.
    • Mary's first suicide also fails. She lives for a while before she successfully dies by sleeping pills.
  • The Charmer: Trip Fontaine has shades of this. He is generally quite gentlemanly about his conquests.
  • Childhood Memory Demolition Team: The trees in the neighborhood are being cut down because of a spreading disease. The Lisbon girls try to prevent the tree in their front yard from being cut down because of how much it meant to Cecilia. Possibly subverted that Mr. Lisbon never recalls Cecilia exactly being interested in the tree and some speculate that the girls had a publicity motive for protecting it.
  • Creepy Child: Slightly averted with Cecilia.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: Averted, judging by the way the remaining Lisbon sisters are said to have winked when passing Cecilia's open casket.
  • Daddy's Girl: Inept as he is, Mr. Lisbon does adore his girls and does his best.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Lux is almost perpetually barefoot. She later abuses this fact to play Footsie Under the Table, and to try to tantalize Trip, whose eyes remain glued to her foot.
  • Driven to Suicide: The motives of the girls are never truly disclosed. Only with Cecilia do we get anything close to insight.
    Doctor: What are you doing here, honey? You're not even old enough to know how bad life gets.
    Cecilia: Obviously, Doctor, you've never been a 13-year-old girl.
  • Evil Matriarch: Mrs. Lisbon. Oh God Mrs. Lisbon has all the classic traits.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The novel is about virgins who commit suicide. Subverted, probably intentionally, because Lux does not die a virgin.
  • Female Gaze: While much of the film is about the boys trying to sort out the mystery of the girls' deaths, one strong example is Trip's "babe walk" down the hall at school, to Heart's "Magic Man."
  • Foregone Conclusion: Look at the title.
  • Girl Next Door: The Lisbon girls, though they are of a particularly hard-to-approach variety.
  • Greek Chorus: The boys are often described as this, though author Eugenides himself disagrees somewhat and believes the trope only gets attributed to them because of his (Greek) last name.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: All five of the Lisbon girls
  • Handsome Lech: Trip Fontaine
  • The Hero Dies: By the end of the film, all of the Lisbon sisters have killed themselves.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Cecilia. She does it herself.
  • In Medias Res: The story begins with the paramedics taking away Mary's dead body.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: One of the boys mentions applying to Yale, because his father went there, despite living in Michigan.
  • Kill 'em All: The fate of the Lisbon sisters who all killed themselves.
  • Lady Killer In Love: Trip develops a intense and passionate crush on the elusive Lux, having previously never had more than a passing interest in any girl. However, after they have sex on the football field he "just gets sick of her right then and there", leaves, and the two of them have no further contact.
  • Loving a Shadow: For all their supposed love toward the Lisbon girls, it turns out that ultimately the boys know very little about who they really were as people.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Lux Lisbon has a succession of encounters on the roof of her house.
  • Mama Bear: Mrs. Lisbon. Dear god Mrs. Lisbon.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The Lisbon sisters represent a more subdued type to the narrators.
  • Proud to Be a Geek: Mr. Lisbon, at least in the movie. Want to see his model airplanes?
  • Riddle for the Ages: Why did the girls commit suicide?
  • Right Through His Pants : And, apparently, Lux' tights, on the football field.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In the film adaptation, when Perl's news van drives to their home, the girls suddenly lose interest in protecting their tree and run back inside their house.
  • Stalker with a Crush: The narrators' infatuation with the Lisbon girls.
  • Standard '50s Father: Subverted with the weak and ineffectual Mr. Lisbon. Any attempt he makes in being this is to no use as his family crumbles around him.
  • Starts with a Suicide: Opens with Cecilia's first suicide attempt. Her second, successful one is what really sets the story in motion.
  • Suicide Is Painless: Subverted with Dominic Palazzolo, who jumps off the roof without much thought, then walks away unscathed.
  • Unreliable Narrator
  • Virgin in a White Dress: Cecilia constantly wears a wedding gown despite all attempts to make her take it off, eventually dying in it.
  • Virgin Power: The possible reason why the girls are so fascinating. Well, except that one...
  • Women's Mysteries