48 pages 1 hour read

Jeffrey Eugenides

The Virgin Suicides

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1993

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Literary Context: The Male Gaze

Arguably the most prominent theme in The Virgin Suicides is The Objectification of Women, given that the novel is narrated in the third-person plural and from the perspective of a group of boys who become deeply obsessed with a family of sisters. The boys spend all their free time investigating, watching, and thinking about the Lisbon girls but never interact with them, as though the girls aren’t real people. Not until the novel’s conclusion, after all the sisters have died, do the boys realize they never knew them despite all their efforts. The boys’ obsession is partly a sexual one wherein they fantasize about the girls from afar and thereby objectify them: “[I]t is always that pale wraith we make love to, always her feet snagged in the gutter, always her single blooming hand steadying itself against the chimney” (142). The boys’ fantasies about what the girls might be like are based largely on a divergence from reality born out of the male gaze. They look at the girls through glass, both literally (through windows) and metaphorically, as though they’re pieces on display in a museum: “The Lisbon girls, on the other hand, were ‘like something behind glass.