Twilight of the Superheroes | Study Guide

Deborah Eisenberg

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Course Hero. "Twilight of the Superheroes Study Guide." Course Hero. 24 Feb. 2018. Web. 17 Nov. 2018. <>.

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Course Hero. "Twilight of the Superheroes Study Guide." February 24, 2018. Accessed November 17, 2018.


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Twilight of the Superheroes | Symbols



Passivityman is Nathaniel's comic strip alter ego in "Twilight of the Superheroes." As his name suggests, he has always been a passive character, but that passivity turns into ambivalence a few years after September 11, 2001. He no longer cares about standing up to corporate greed with "his greed-repelling Shield of Sloth," and doing things "conspicuously lacking in monetary value" barely thrills him anymore. "But, like, what am I supposed to do about it?" he asks his girlfriend after she breathlessly tells him about Captain Corporation's latest scheme. He doesn't even care enough to pretend to be the hero he once was.

Passivityman's disinterest in the world crumbling around him is symbolic of Nathaniel's feelings three years after September 11. Nathaniel has never been much of a go-getter, but his life came to a grinding halt after the twin towers fell. He's living in the same apartment with the same people and going to the same dull job day after day. Like Passivityman, he feels helpless and hopeless about the world around him. He knows he can't fix it, so he doesn't even try. Hundreds of thousands—maybe even millions—of people felt that way in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. Yet unlike many of them, including his friends, Nathaniel finds himself far from emotional and mental recovery three years down the line. While he thinks Passivityman is losing his superpowers, the reader thinks the same thing about him.

The Girl

Harry lusts after Mrs. Reitz's teenage daughter, known only as "the girl," in "Like It or Not." The reader gets the impression she isn't the first teenager to catch his eye—the narrator makes a comment about how "every once in a while, some magic girl could unlock" Harry's childhood senses. Based on what the reader knows about Giovanna's age, which is late 40s or early 50s, Harry is most likely in his late 50s or early 60s. He's not a young man anymore, but he's also not likely to die of old age anytime soon. Harry is terribly nostalgic for anything from the past, including his own youth. That's why he's so attracted to much younger women. Like the girl, they symbolize the youth Harry so desperately wishes to reclaim. He hopes possessing the girls for just a little bit will help him get in touch with his own youthful experiences.


In "Windows" Kristina quickly becomes bored with life in the small northeastern town where she lives rent-free with Nonie and Munsen. Not long after she meets Eli at the bar where she works, she "[takes] to sitting at her window." She gazes for hours and becomes surprised when she realizes how much time has passed. Looking out the window symbolizes Kristina's desire for a life better than the one she has. She daydreams as her eyes scan the horizon, looking for the next place to go and the next person to be. After she moves in with Eli, she barely looks out the window at all. That's because she's living the fantasy life she always dreamed about.

Kristina notices the windows as soon as she arrives at Alma's house. The windows are covered in plastic to keep out the cold. The plastic makes things blurry as the wind shifts it about, and "all that's visible are vague, dark blotches, spreading, twisting, and disappearing." It's hard to tell if anyone's looking in or looking out. Yet Kristina stares out the covered kitchen window as she recalls the last few months. The distortion of Alma's window symbolizes the distortion of Kristina's memories of Eli. She chooses to remember just the good parts about him and to forget about the reason she left him. Her inability to see beyond the plastic also represents her decision to walk away from her fantasy life and live in "a nondescript room in a busy city where she'll be able to lose herself and Noah." She doesn't need to daydream about her fantasy life anymore because she has already lived it.

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