The Virgin Suicides

In the second chapter of The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides writes: “The majority of dying had happened during the Second World War when we didn’t exist and our fathers were impossibly skinny young men in black-and-white photographs—dads on jungle airstrips, dads with pimples and tattoos, dads with pinups, dads who wrote love letters to the girls who would become our mothers” (35).

World War II ended in 1945.  Given the above description, let’s figure those dads were about 20 in those photographs.  Maybe a little older.  Let’s say they were 22 in 1945.  Even if they came home and took their time marrying their sweethearts and having, the narrator would have been born around 1956 or 1957.

OK, so the narrator is in high school, so let’s say 16.  That means the suicides took place in 1973.  If maybe he was 17, we could say 1974.

The list of songs on page 196 backs this up.  James Taylor recorded “You’ve Got a Friend” in 1971.  “Candle in the Wind” was 1973.  And so on.

Here’s where I get confused: the new young couple who buy the Lisbon house set up a desk with a computer on it.  Yes, there were PCs in the early-mid 1970s, but they didn’t really take off until the early 1980s.  Or am I wrong about that?  I believe it wasn’t particularly common to have a PC until around the early 1980s.

This really trips me up, because the book makes myriad references to the passage of time – when we used to have trees, when we used to have winters.  The end is especially heavy-handed with this, talking about whether the suicides were “a response to our historical moment” (247).

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but that computer on the desk sits wrong with me.  Feel free to correct my math if you are so inclined.


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