Neil Gaiman

Start Free Trial

In "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," what upsets Vic at the end of the story?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this story, two friends, Vic and Enn, go to a party. Vic, who has a way with girls, talks the self-conscious Enn into going. Vic tells his friend not to worry and that they are "just girls," thus making what happens later quite ironic.

Vic, with his handsomeness and charisma, quickly charms who appears to be the prettiest girl at the party, Stella. Within minutes, they are talking and flirting. Enn, on the other hand, meets three girls who talk very strangely. Enn meets Wain's Wain who refers to herself as a second who must go back home to her home to tell the firsts what she has seen. Another girl refers to herself as a tourist who has been to the sun. Another girl, Triolet, refers to herself as a poem. Enn, whose mind is on physical beauty, probably regards all of this as being a little odd, since he remembers it thirty years later, but he stays anyway. The entire time he is mindful that his friend Victor and Stella have gone upstairs; Enn wishes he was suave enough to take a girl upstairs as well.

About the time that Enn thinks he may get to kiss Triolet again, Vic comes running down the stairs. The two boys leave the party quickly, and Enn sees Stella in the upstairs window with smudged makeup and mussed hair. One can only assume that Vic saw that Stella was not a human female and this caused him to run away. His tears and vomiting at the end of the story confirm this deduction. The author reasserts the notion that the girls were from another planet when he compares Stella's angry stare as that of "an angry universe."

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the short story by Neil Gaiman, "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," the first-person narrator, Enn, retells the events that took place thirty years earlier at a party in London.

Enn's inexperience with girls at the age of fifteen is evident; he always ends up in the kitchen "listening to somebody's mum going on about politics or poetry or something" (para 6) while his friend, Vic, always gets the girl.

From the onset of the story, Gaiman foreshadows the strange turn of events that will take place that night. The neighborhood where the party takes place is located in a "grimy maze" of backstreets. Rusty cars and dirty shops sell "alien spices" and pornographic magazines (para 12). This is not the type of place young boys would usually go to a party to talk to girls.

Furthermore, Gaiman uses irony when Vic tells Enn that talking to girls is easy:"'They're just girls," said Vic. "They don't come from another planet'" (para 16). As we find out at the end of the story, these are not just girls, and, more than likely, they did come from another planet.

When Vic runs away from Stella, Gaiman purposely leaves Vic's sentence unfinished, "She wasn't a—"

So, what did upset Vic so much that he threw up and cried like a little boy? What corrupted his innocence? Perhaps as aliens, the girls also had other alien characteristics that were not of the typical female gender. Whatever Vic discovered about Stella while he was with her terrified him because she was not a normal female.

Therefore, ironically, perhaps Enn did not learn to talk to girls at parties that evening, but instead he held a conversation with beings most definitely not girls.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Throughout the story "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," there's a hint that the women at the party are not exactly women— or even human. This idea is foreshadowed early in the story and then the narrator, Enn, explains his run-in with these non-human "women" at the party. This is why we can guess as to what Vic means when he says, "She wasn't a—"

In the story, Enn explains his trouble talking to girls. He says that while Vic could get away with not actually talking to girls because he's good looking, Enn "did not know what to say to girls." The entire story is Enn trying to talk to girls. The first girl he speaks to is named "Wain Wain" and oddly says after a long speech, "Soon I must return to Wain, and tell her all I have seen. All my impressions of the place of yours." The next girl he speaks to calls herself a tourist and that on her last tour she "went to sun, and we swam in sunfire pools with the whales." Finally, the last girl Enn speaks to at the party is named Triolet and she calls herself a poem. She says about her people,

There are places that we are welcomed. . . and places where we are regarded as a noxious weed, or as a disease, something immediately to be quarantined and elimated. But where does contagion end and art begin?

After Triolet recites a poem in Enn's ear, Vic comes into the kitchen in a panic and says they need to leave. When they leave, Enn looks back and sees Stella, who is staring at them. Enn's description of Stella is interesting and explains these non-women:

Her clothes were in disarray, and there was makeup smudged across her face, and her eye—

You wouldn't want to make a universe angry. I bet an angry universe would look at you with eyes like that.

All of these clues lead to only one conclusion: Stella, who Vic was with upstairs, was not human. This frightens him so much that he ends up "sobbing in the street, as unselfconsciously and heartbreakingly as a little boy."

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Neil Gaiman's "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," what do you think Vic sees at the end of the story that upsets him so much?

At the end of the story, Vic hurries Enn home. Vic is visibly nervous and agitated about what he's just seen.

Although the author is ambiguous about the reason for Vic's angst, the text provides some hints:

We ran then, me and Vic, away from the party and the tourists and the twilight, ran as if a lightning storm was on our heels. . . I held on to a wall, and Vic threw up, hard and long, into the gutter. (Because of what he's seen, Vic is upset enough to throw up).

He wiped his mouth.

"She wasn't a--" He stopped. (The girl Vic was with, Stella, wasn't human).

He shook his head.

Then he said, "You know. . . I think there's a thing. When you've gone as far as you dare. And if you go any further, you wouldn't be you anymore? You'd be the person who'd done that? The places you just can't go. . . I think that happened to me tonight." (Does Vic metaphorically or literally mean that he's gone as far as he dares?)

Although this portion of the text is frustrating (perhaps because it's so ambiguous), it's also humorous. On one level, human girls can be so alien in temperament and emotional make-up to boys that they invite curiosity and amusement from their male counterparts. On another level, Gaiman explores how an interplanetary being could actually be so unusual to a human boy that, upon disrobing, she would devastate him. From the text, we can extrapolate that the experience of trying to bed an alien girl was extremely traumatizing for Vic. He was so traumatized by what he saw that he wasn't prepared to go any further. In fact, Stella's emphatic "I am not finished. There is yet more of me" further repels Vic.

So, it appears from the story that Neil Gaiman is posing a distinctly amusing question: if a male teenager thinks that girls are strange, what will he do when he meets a real, interplanetary female alien?

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What do you think Vic sees at the end of Gaiman's "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" that upsets him so much?

It could be suggested that Vic sees something out of the ordinary while making out with Stella. This is suggested because, as Vic and Enn leave the party, Enn sees the look on Stella’s face as she watches their sudden departure. In Enn’s words, Stella’s eyes are angry: she looks at them like an “angry universe” would. Also, “her clothes are in disarray” and her makeup is all smudged—clear signs that she and Vic had been “busy” before his wild exit.

The sudden change in Vic’s feelings for Stella, and the party in general, is kind of strange. Earlier on, Vic shows a lot of interest in Stella. He holds her hand while they dance, and walks around with his hand around her waist like he “owns” her. Even when he discovers that they are at the wrong party, he is still happy to stay on. When Enn asks whether they should leave (as they are at the wrong party), Stella “shakes her head” and Vic kisses her, then says, “you’re just happy to have me here, aren’t you darling?” Moments later, however, Vic is “grabbing Enn by the elbow” and angrily forcing him out of the party. Once out of the house, the boys run like something’s chasing them. When they stop, Vic vomits for a long time. Finally, he says “she wasn’t a —," but he does not complete his statement.

Through the conversations that Enn has with the girls in the party, the reader discerns that all or most of the girls are actually aliens from another planet. However, Enn does not understand this. Even Vic does not understand this until toward the end of the story. It is this discovery that totally upsets him. Possibly, this is what he wants to say to Enn after they leave the party: that Stella wasn't a human being.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What do you think Vic sees at the end of Gaiman's "How to Talk to Girls at Parties" that upsets him so much?

Throughout the story "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," there's a hint that the women at the party are not exactly women—or even human. This idea is foreshadowed early in the story and then the narrator, Enn, explains his run-in with these non-human "women" at the party. This is why we can guess as to what Vic means when he says, "She wasn't a—"

In the story, Enn explains his trouble talking to girls. He says that while Vic could get away with not actually talking to girls because he's good looking, Enn "did not know what to say to girls." The entire story is Enn trying to talk to girls. The first girl he speaks to is named "Wain Wain" and oddly says after a long speech, "Soon I must return to Wain, and tell her all I have seen. All my impressions of the place of yours." The next girl he speaks to calls herself a tourist and says that on her last tour she "went to sun, and we swam in sunfire pools with the whales." Finally, the last girl Enn speaks to at the party is named Triolet and she calls herself a poem. She says about her people,

There are places that we are welcomed. . . and places where we are regarded as a noxious weed, or as a disease, something immediately to be quarantined and elimated. But where does contagion end and art begin?

After Triolet recites a poem in Enn's ear, Vic comes into the kitchen in a panic and says they need to leave. When they leave, Enn looks back and sees Stella, who is staring at them. Enn's description of Stella is interesting and explains these non-women:

Her clothes were in disarray, and there was makeup smudged across her face, and her eye—

You wouldn't want to make a universe angry. I bet an angry universe would look at you with eyes like that.

All of these clues lead to only one conclusion: Stella, who Vic was with upstairs, was not human. This frightens him so much that he ends up "sobbing in the street, as unselfconsciously and heartbreakingly as a little boy."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on