The Virgin Suicides

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In a quiet suburb in the early 1970’s, two paragons of middle-class virtue live otherwise undistinguished lives with their five daughters. Then, inexplicably, Cecilia Lisbon, the youngest child, commits suicide. Cecilia’s act has an even more surprising consequence, seeming to cast a spell on her sisters. The question no longer is should they seek self-destruction, but how and when.

Of course, the Lisbon girls do not immediately rush to embrace Cecilia’s fate. Nor do their parents ignore the issue before them.

Nevertheless, slowly and inexorably daughter after daughter finds the solace of the grave as classmates and acquaintances look on in horror and disbelief. Every scrap of information, every action, every word uttered by the remaining four in their last year is scrutinized and analyzed for some clue as to the reason behind the tragedy. Yet, in the end, the virgin suicides remain a mystery without resolution.

THE VIRGIN SUICIDES is not a careful examination of the phenomenon of teenage suicide. It does not pretend to offer an explanation of the extreme act of selfishness that suicide embodies. In point of fact, the work is an allegory in which the daughters, their home and their parents symbolize the nation in the 1980’s when collective compassion was overwhelmed by individual insensitivity. THE VIRGIN SUICIDES is not for the unwary; it forces the reader to answer difficult questions about the present and our possible future.