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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"Fern" and "The Virgin Suicides"

While reading Jean Toomer’s “Fern” I was reminded of “The Virgin Suicides” by Jeffrey Eugenides. The suicidal Lisbon girls of Eugenides’ novel were, like Fernie May Rosen, unknown and alluring to men who encountered them. Toomer’s narrator describes men who “became attached to [Fern], and hungered after finding the barest trace of what she might desire” (14). The narrator of “Fern” describes a sort of phenomenon surrounding the girl: “Men were everlastingly bringing her their bodies…A sort of superstition crept into their consciousness of her being somehow above them” (14). The Lisbon girls are a source of small-town mystery; so is Fern. The Lisbon girls are lusted after; so is Fern. The following sentence from “Fern” could have come straight from “The Virgin Suicides”: “As you know, men are apt to idolize or fear that which they cannot understand, especially if it be a woman” (14). In both stories, the narrator is working to understand a woman, is trying to pass on to the reader some bit of information learned in his own experiences, through his own observations.

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