Presentation on theme: "The Importance of Community and Voyeurism in The Virgin Suicides By Iain Welsh and Ashleigh Symington."— Presentation transcript:
The Importance of Community and Voyeurism in The Virgin Suicides By Iain Welsh and Ashleigh Symington
The community plays an important role within the novel “The Virgin Suicides”, this presentation will aim to outline how the community influences the events within the novel.
The novel is set in a very close, privileged, suburban community which is a place where the serious issues are shied away from and everyone is supposed to pretend they are happy and everyone is perfect. However the Lisbon’s life is not perfect and after the suicide of Cecilia the Lisbon’s are judged by the community and isolated. If this had not been the case and had been given support perhaps the family would have been better able to deal with their grief and it would not have led to the later suicides of the rest of the Lisbon girls. The disrepair of the house also makes the Lisbon’s seem even more separate from the community as everyone else seems so organised. The community tries to make an effort at the beginning of the tragedies, they make a communal effort to clean up their house after the fish fly season (this sort of team work seems ordinary for the community). The Lisbon family stops taking part in these activities which further isolates them.
As the community that the Lisbon’s live in is so superficial they always feel the need to pretend to everyone that they are happy despite their problems. By the Lisbon parents pretending to everybody that they are happy on the outside perhaps they didn't address their daughters problems and this ultimately ended up in the premature death of all their daughters. The denial of the parents is particularly evident throughout the novel, this is shown by the disrepair of their house (which had not been changed since the death of Cecilia) and the way in which Mrs Lisbon refers to Cecilia’s initial suicide attempt as “her little accident”, it shows she is more worried about what other people will think of her than trying to support her clearly fragile daughter. Mrs Lisbon also makes all of her daughters face the house when Cecilia died to make sure they didn’t see anything and this is perhaps why they were in denial about the whole issue of the loss of Cecilia in the first place. If they were allowed to address the issue perhaps it would not have resulted in their own suicides.
Due to the fact that the Lisbon’s live in such a close community the narrative style is able to be adopted in a way that would not be possible otherwise: The narrators grew up with the Lisbon girls and therefore know important details about their Lives. They are constantly able to watch the Lisbon girls, this highlights the theme of voyeurism throughout the novel. As the novel is not told from a first hand perspective they have to be watched for there to be enough evidence about them, the narrators also gather evidence from people within the community about events within the girls lives. The narrators were present at the party where Cecilia killed herself, which was the event that brought about the family’s demise so they were able to witness first hand the effect it had on the family and may have made them more aware of the Lisbon’s grief and alert to the problems within the family. The narrators felt so close to the Lisbon girls “some had even fallen in love with them” that it led to them feeling dissatisfied about not knowing the cause of their suicides, this may be the reason that they feel so obsessed by it and even treat it like a case, “Exhibit 1” etc.. The girls were watched so often by the narrators that they could even recount the dates on which the girls wore particular outfits,
The suburban community also enforces the idea of physical boundaries. The Lisbon girls are refined by the physical boundaries of their home, leaving them isolated and with a lack of any form of social life. (The only time they were really allowed visitors was at a chaperoned party after Cecilia’s initial attempt at suicide, which the parents only allowed out of obligation to the doctors orders.) The girls’ lack of socialising leads to the boys’ lack of knowledge about the girls and the girls’ lives, and adds to the boys' fascination and obsession towards them, and it is from this that the story is told- the neighbourhood boys act as a collective narrative talking from what they have seen of the girls by living in such a close knit community. This is another reason the community is so important in this novel.
Many of the issues within the community highlight the inability to address serious topics and also adds to the theme of death: The cemetery workers strike: “was settled after 409 days of arbitration.” Dutch elm disease, even the trees are dying, highlights to the theme of death and adds to the idea of things disappearing without a trace within the community. The fish flies, highlights the idea of life being transient- they have a very short life span. Something that Cecilia seemed fascinated by. People were almost reluctant to send flowers to the Lisbon’s house after the tragedy of Cecilia’s suicide, they did not know how to act: “Because of the nature of the death… everybody put of placing their orders, unsure whether to let the catastrophe pass in silence or to act as though the death were natural. In the end, however, everybody sent something.”