At first glance, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides is a haunting and chilling story about five sisters who all end up commiting suicide. But what makes this novel true to today is even more shocking. Although the book is set in the 1970s, the topics that are brought up in the book such as suicide have a vast impact on our society today. Since pyschologists have found depression to be a clinical health problem in recent years, it is no stretch to say that the correlation between teenage suicide and depression rates are vastly phenominal. A novel such as The Virgin Suicides brings us to the same question that the boys across the street asked about the Lisbon sisters: Why did they do it? In the novel, of course, there were various things that lead to the possible ongoing suicidal thoughts and completely apathetic feeling toward their own lives. The one thing that seems to be completely unexplainable by most measures is why the first daughter, Cecilia, commits suicide. It is shown throughout the books and through the thoughts of the boys that she was a "daydreamer" and "completely out of touch with reality". But does that really explain her suicidal tendencies? In recent studies, doctors have found that depression is a condition that is the result of an imbalance in brain chemicals. Back in the 1970s, of course, there was no real explanation for this. In this way, I find the book to be making a social commentary on depression and suicide. There is much debate as to whether depression is a chemical imbalance or if it can be cured by simply trying to get the person who is depressed to talk to someone, or to just be involved in more stimulating acitivities. Throughout the book, of course, this is shown, (Cecilia's party), and the many other things that the parents try to do. But what ends up happening is complete isolation and unhappiness. This brings about the question as to whether there really is a cure for depression. Nowadays, we see all kinds of ads for new medications that are supposed to rid you of your depression, but is that really going to work, or are doctors giving patients placebos to make them think they are getting better? The topic of depression and suicide is something that could very well be highly debated. The Virgin Suicides opens up new doors to these perspectives on suicide and depression. If it is not curable, then what can be done? The Lisbon sisters lived a life of isolation, trapped in their own minds, in their own thoughts. They could not escape the blackness that had yet poisoned their lives after Cecilia's death. Even with Mrs. Lisbon's rules enforced, the girls did not get any better, they developed more apathy towards life and generally could not rid themselves of the plague that had once overtaken them in that strange town. It seems that no matter what scientists, doctors, and pyschologists think, one can never know the complexities of such a depression. Isolation and blackness plagues many people with this anxiety, and the only hope seems to be to escape this through suicide. The raising awareness to suicide that is also represented in the book is a good indicator of what we need to be aware of in society. With this haunting, chilling, and dark perspective on the issue, Jeffrey Eugenides is raising awareness with his novel through the empty rooms of the Lisbon girls, the green poison that fills the air, and the smell of what were once five blonde beauties in a neighborhood.
A shot from the motion picture The Virgin Suicides.