Twilight of the Superheroes | Study Guide

Deborah Eisenberg

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Twilight of the Superheroes | Quotes


What was the world in which beings like his aunt and uncle could exist?

Narrator, Twilight of the Superheroes

From a young age Nathaniel thought his Aunt Charlie and Uncle Lucien to be different from other adults. Cultured, educated, affectionate, and funny, they were nothing like his immigrant parents. To him New York City seemed as far off and amazing as Mars, and its people just as interesting as martians. Nathaniel promised himself he would one day live in New York and become just like his aunt and uncle.


And now it was always going to have happened.

Narrator, Twilight of the Superheroes

Like many people Lucien wishes the events of September 11, 2001, never happened. But they did happen, and the world was forever changed because of it. Lucien and Nathaniel both have difficulty comprehending the existence of a world where buildings are there one day and gone the next, much less the permanence of such a place. Their senses of reality have been completely altered and there's nothing they can do about it.


You had everything here, everything, and you threw it all away in one second.

Delphine, Twilight of the Superheroes

Delphine is a minor character in "Twilight of the Superheroes," but she provides an important perspective. Foreign-born and educated, Delphine doesn't view America the way Nathaniel does. She understands the terrible things the United States does to other countries, and she understands the danger of turning a blind eye to one's position in the world and its politics. Delphine is disgusted with how easily Americans allowed the "curtain" of normality to be drawn back into place, and she is even more furious at how easily the American public believes everything it is told.


We're not people—we're family.

Corinne, Some Other, Better Otto

Corinne says this to Otto as an explanation of why Sharon should get over herself and make more of an effort to spend time with her siblings. She thinks Sharon and Otto should put aside their insecurities and spend time with family when in reality it is family that caused those insecurities in the first place. Corinne likes the idea of family more than she likes her actual family members, but she makes an effort to be with them because that's what people do. Sharon and Otto, on the other hand, have both had such negative familial experiences they would rather be with anyone else than the people with whom they shared their formative years.


Everyone is so alone.

William, Some Other, Better Otto

This offhand comment, said during a conversation about Sharon, sends Otto into a tailspin. He hates the idea of his sister having to be alone because of her unnamed condition. But he remains upset for an entire day not only because of Sharon but because of his own fears of being alone despite his long-term, loving relationship. To him being alone means not being understood. Otto already feels that way a lot of the time, which is why William's words made him so angry. He wants assurance he will always be loved and supported, not that he is doomed to be "alone" even with the man he loves.


I don't need to tell you how deeply I'll regret having embarrassed you.

Otto, Some Other, Better Otto

Otto is a completely different person when he's angry, and he knows it. His apology to William following their visit with Naomi and Margaret isn't an apology at all—it's an acknowledgment of how he will feel in the future. This version of Otto is snide and passive-aggressive, nothing like the man who suggests they go to bed just a few moments later.


True, true, she was a grunting barbarian, he was a rarified esthete.

Narrator, Like It or Not

Kate feels stodgy and boring compared to ever-enthusiastic Harry. She interprets his (not unkind) observation about her serious personality as a slam against her uncultured, perfectly boring lifestyle. That wasn't what Harry meant—he was trying to put himself down for spending so much time on "frivolous" things—but it's what Kate thinks about herself. She knows she comes across as dull and old-fashioned, but she's too afraid to be anything else.


One assumed there was such a thing as chance.

Narrator, Like It or Not

The idea of chance and how it affects the trajectory of one's life comes up a lot in Twilight of the Superheroes. Life seemed to be so full of possibilities when Kate was young, but with age comes the knowledge she would have probably ended up here all along: a reserved, practical woman who would rather spend her nights home on the couch rather than out on the town. Kate knows she would never have had a glamorous life like Giovanna, but she still can't help but wonder what her life would have been like had she not married Baker. She wouldn't be wealthy or famous or even more outgoing, but she might have been happy.


I never get used to anything ... I mean, except for the things that aren't happening any longer.

Kate, Like It or Not

When Mrs. Reitz tells Kate she can never get used to the smell of cigars, this is Kate's reply. This suggests Kate's desire for things to always remain the same. Though Eisenberg never tells the reader how long ago Kate and Baker divorced, it's understood Baker and Norman have been together a long time. Kate has had years to make a new life for herself after the divorce, but she spends most of her time—even during her vacation—thinking about the way things were before her marriage ended. Kate doesn't like change. When confronted with the new, she retreats into the past.


Everything that happens is out there waiting for you to come to it.

Narrator, Window

Like Eisenberg's other main characters, Kristina often thinks about the trajectory of her life. She is young, just 20, and hasn't had much life experience. Instead of looking back at the choices she made and how they got her to where she is now, she looks for the opportunities that will take her where she wants to go. Kristina's desires and ambitions are never made clear—it mostly seems as if she wants to have a quiet, safe, and aesthetically pleasing life. She knows it is out there somewhere. She just has to figure out how to get there.


Apparently it didn't matter where she went.

Kristina, Window

Kristina considers leaving town after she hears about Nonie's pregnancy. She can't afford to get a place of her own in town, and she might have better luck somewhere else. It doesn't seem to matter where she goes—every place she has been to so far is exactly the same. She begins to think she's destined for a colorless, boring life. Then Eli comes back and changes everything.


It's supposed to mean something to be one person rather than another.

Lulu, Revenge of the Dinosaurs

Lulu is miffed Nana showed pictures of her to Eileen, Nana's night nurse. This sort of behavior is clearly out of character for Nana, who was always well coifed and jeweled before her first stroke. Based on the descriptions of the items in Nana's house, it appears she was once very well-to-do. Lulu's reaction insinuates Nana previously would never have thought to share personal details of her family's life with "the help." It's a suggestion of snobbery on the part of both Nana and Lulu.


Girls in real life don't behave like television floozies.

Peggy, Revenge of the Dinosaurs

Peggy chastises Melinda for insinuating her babysitter has sex. Her insistence girls in "real life" don't do those types of things is evidence Peggy, like Lulu, willfully ignores the parts of reality she finds distressing. If they don't think about it, it doesn't exist.


Eclipsed—the day has sealed up behind me.

Oliver's mother, The Flaw in the Design

"The Flaw in the Design" opens with the end of the narrator's secret tryst with a stranger. She returns home to her husband and son and acts as if nothing has happened. It is as if she locked her previous actions behind a door and threw away the key. Oliver's mother has a gift for compartmentalizing the more unsavory parts of her life. There's the secret liaison, as well as the bombing she and her family witnessed while living abroad. She doesn't allow unsavory thoughts or events to pollute her mind for long. They would eventually crack through the facade of cheerfulness she maintains to hold her family together.


What can we do, Ma? We can't hide.

Oliver, The Flaw in the Design

Oliver appears to be on the verge of a mental breakdown in "The Flaw in the Design." The constant bickering with his father may just be a function of rebellious youth, but Oliver's behavior when he's alone with his mother seems less playacting and much more troubling. Oliver is scared of something. Though he never explicitly says what it is, the reader can connect Oliver's childhood experiences around the world with the events following September 11, 2001, to figure out Oliver does not feel safe in the current climate of global unrest. Countries and ideologies are at war. Oliver saw things like that firsthand while he and his parents traveled to "underdeveloped" nations when he was a child, and unlike his parents, Oliver hasn't been able to push those images out of his mind. He is terrified of what will happen next on his home soil, where he always thought he would be safe.

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