Character List

The narrators—a group of middle-age men recounting their experiences as 16- and 17-year-old boys.

Mr. Lisbon—the father of the five Lisbon girls and a math teacher at the private preparatory school the narrators and the Lisbons attend.

Mrs. Lisbon—the mother of the five Lisbon sisters.

Cecilia Lisbon—the youngest Lisbon sister and the first to commit suicide; she jumps out of a third-story window.

Lux Lisbon—the second youngest sister and the most attractive, outgoing of the Lisbon girls; she kills herself by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Bonnie Lisbon—the middle sister, quiet and religious; she hangs herself.

Mary Lisbon—the second oldest sister, severe and proper; she is the last to die, via sleeping pills.

Therese Lisbon—the oldest sister, awkward and intellectual; she overdoses on sleeping pills.

Trip Fontaine—the school heartthrob who is a peer of the narrators and briefly has a relationship Lux.

Neighbors—a collection of minor characters who live on the same street as the Lisbons and who provide the narrators with memories and opinions of the Lisbons.

Dr. Hornicker—a hospital psychiatrist who examines Cecilia, Lux, and Mary.

Paramedics—two men who tend to the Lisbon sisters after each suicide incident.

Mrs. Karafilis—the immigrant grandmother of one of the neighborhood boys.

Father Moody—a Catholic priest who attempts to console the Lisbons.

Character Analysis

The narrators, smart and skittish boys with the usual adolescent preoccupations, represent the teenage “everyman”—the average person with whom all readers can identify. Their longing, their need for connection, their continued mining of the past for solace and understanding—these are feelings that anyone who has survived puberty has gone through. The reader can presume that several of the narrators’ peers—Joe Hill Conley, Chase Buell—are, in fact, the narrators themselves, but this is never confirmed. The narrative voice thus appears both intimately involved and entirely detached from the events of the novel. Similarly, the characters attempt to relate events in a measured, objective manner, but their emotional impressions and, ultimately, their feeble understanding of what transpires ends up emphasizing their personal experiences as survivors rather than emphasizing the Lisbons’ demise. The reader must decide whether to sympathize with or pity the boys for their eternal longing.

Eugenides does not lavish equal time on all five Lisbon sisters, concentrating mostly on Cecilia and Lux. Bonnie, Mary, and Therese are intentionally blurred together to highlight the narrators’ adolescent lust for Lux and the disintegration of their memories of the events. Cecilia is the ultimate outsider, too smart and too mature for her young age. Suicide, to her, was an utterly logical and natural act. Her departure is never greeted by a truly genuine reaction from the community because she never truly seems a part of it, though her act will hang over the remainder of the novel, foreshadowing a bigger tragedy to come.

Lux, on the other hand, is the ultimate symbol of teen lust and angst: she is sexual, clever, mysterious. While it is tempting to call her the “wild child,” it is also apparent that she is architect of a larger plan—including her and her sisters’ suicides—that is beyond the understanding of the boys. She is deceptive and victimized, trapped and free; her actions cause the girls’ demise but might also be said to free them from imprisonment. Because the narrators’ love for her is never reciprocated, she remains an enigma to them, and the reader is left to...

(The entire section is 927 words.)