Friday, February 15, 2013

We-we on our hands

Going back to Jeffrey Eugenides’ Virgin Suicides, this is the first work I’ve ever read written in the first person plural—that’s plural, folks. As in we.

You’d think that writing from the we point of view would get really boring or annoying, but it doesn’t in this book. I think a lot of it is the amazingly vivid writing—see Scarecrowed into using more verbs—and a lot of it is the fact that even though the story is about the we (which happens to be a group of middle-aged men reflecting back on their teens), most of the book has to do with the object of their teenage affections (the 5 daughters of the Lisbon family from their childhood suburb). So there’s as much writing about the girls and their glimpsed lives as about the we.

I think it also works because so much of the book is about voyeurism, and about the adolescent pain of being on the outside looking in—it’s also about responsibility and guilt and longing to which no one individual alone wants to admit. To end things off, here’s the final few lines of the book, to get a feel for it (no spoiler here, since you know from the get-go that the girls are suicides):

It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls, but only that we had loved them, and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time, alone in suicide, which is deeper than death, and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together. (pp248-249)

Quote from: Jeffrey Eugenides. The Virgin Suicides. London, United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing; 2002. (paperback edition)


  1. Mary, I love "The Virgin Suicides." I love the first person plural, if I could find a way to use it and not seem like a crackpot copycat, I totally would. Have you read "Then We Came to an End" by Joshua Ferris? Very different book, but similar narrative device.

  2. I love that book, too! Very different effect, you're right. Maybe I'll have to do a post on that one, too. It's hard to do, but when it works, it WORKS!