Authors Name: 
Hilary Hovenden
University: 
University College Dublin
Category: 
Literature
Highly commended

The Role of the Male Gaze in The Virgin Suicides: Examining how the Lisbon sisters reject the role of the passive female and trap the male narrators

This essay explains and interrogates Laura Mulvey's "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" in relation to Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides. Providing an explanation of Mulvey's theory of the male gaze in narrative, the essay argues that The Virgin Suicides denote a conscious re-enactment of this masculine gaze through its processes of scopophilia, objectification and voyeurism. The essay argues that these voyeuristic projections and the constricting role the girls' parents hold over them prevent the girls from gaining full subjectivity. Only through their decision to commit suicide can they refute their roles as passive figures and through this rejection, the girls deny the teenage boys their accepted position of subjectivity. As the boys attempt to rationalise the girls' suicides, they become trapped in their immanent position as bearers of the gaze. They male narrators continually attempt to apply meaning to the girls whose depictions mirror that of Julia Kristeva's Celinian mother in relation to their connection with knowledge of love and death. Consequentially, the male narrators remain incapable of abandoning their position as voyeurs and reconstituting subjectivity and are ultimately unable to transcend the traumas of history.