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. 20 Sep. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Twilight-of-the-Superheroes/>.

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Course Hero. (2018, February 24). Twilight of the Superheroes Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 20, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Twilight-of-the-Superheroes/

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Course Hero. "Twilight of the Superheroes Study Guide." February 24, 2018. Accessed September 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Twilight-of-the-Superheroes/.

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Course Hero, "Twilight of the Superheroes Study Guide," February 24, 2018, accessed September 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Twilight-of-the-Superheroes/.

Twilight of the Superheroes | Window | Summary

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Summary

Kristina, 20, and Alma, 30, sit at Kristina's kitchen table as Noah, 2, plays on the floor. Alma doesn't seem particularly happy to see either of them, and she soon leaves with a date. Noah, who has a fever and a bad cold, sleeps on a futon mattress on the floor as Kristina sits at the kitchen table and smokes. Her story unspools.

Kristina and Alma are half sisters who share a father. They grew up next door to one another in the projects of New York City. Though Alma is 10 years older than Kristina, they were once very close. It's been years since they last saw one another. Kristina drifted for a year after high school, and then settled down in a picturesque northeastern town. She got a job at the White Rabbit, a local bar, and moved in with Nonie, her coworker, and Nonie's husband, Munsen.

A depressing date with Roger, a married father who just lost his finance job in New York City, makes Kristina swear off dating the bar's clientele. Yet she can't help but be drawn to Eli, a mysterious outsider who claims to do business with Kristina's boss. They flirt, and Kristina is instantly smitten. She is disappointed when he shows up a few months later with a beautiful black woman and a baby.

Nonie and Munsen are also having a baby. Kristina tries to find a place of her own, but everything seems way too expensive. Then she runs into Eli at the bar. He's alone, and he tells her he and his girlfriend aren't together anymore. Kristina goes home that night to find Eli in Nonie's kitchen. He "ask[s] for [her] hand" and they make plans to leave the next day. Eli tells her to wear something pretty.

Eli takes Kristina to his secluded house in the woods. She doesn't think to ask about what happened to his ex-girlfriend, Zoe, or about the baby she saw with them months ago. The next morning Eli's friends Hollis and Liz bring the baby, Noah, back to the house. Kristina is suddenly thrown into motherhood. She cares for Noah while Eli works in the shed. Not much is said about his work, but it's clear he sells firearms and other weapons, some of which may be illegal. Kristina doesn't mind spending her days with Noah, who hates her, as long as she gets Eli to herself at night.

Eli travels for days at a time for work. There's no phone in the house, or Internet, and Kristina doesn't have a car. Eli arranges for Liz to stay with Kristina and Noah when he's gone. Kristina hates it—she doesn't like Liz, who is prone to gossip about everything, even Eli's ex. "I always felt like smacking her myself, to tell you the truth," Liz says of Zoe; "[Eli] put up with her shit a long, long time before he even began to lose patience."

Liz gets a terrible migraine during her second stay at the house. She makes Kristina promise not to tell Eli she left so early, then goes home. Noah and Kristina fight all afternoon. She threatens to leave, which prompts him to throw an enormous fit. Recognizing this is her chance to get through to him, she holds his struggling little body tightly for an hour. When he finally relaxes she promises she will never leave him alone. Days later she realizes he "never fussed anymore. He had made his choice; he had forgotten" Zoe.

Things are infinitely better between Kristina and Noah, but her relationship with Eli begins to falter. Liz lets it slip one of their clients killed his family with weapons sold by Eli and Hollis, but Eli won't talk about it. He takes Kristina and Noah into town. They visit Nonie and Munsen, who are delighted to meet Noah. Nonie gives Noah a rag doll she made for her soon-to-be-born baby. Kristina searches for it the next morning but it's nowhere to be found.

Eli announces he has to leave again. Kristina first asks if she and Noah can join him, then requests Liz doesn't stay with them. "If you're worried about us, we could go stay with Nonie and Munsen," she says. The next thing she knows, she is bleeding. Her whole body hurts, and she wonders if her tooth will fall out.

Eli stays home for a few days, taking care of Noah and nursing Kristina back to health, then leaves for his trip as planned. When Liz arrives, she isn't at all surprised by Kristina's sunglasses or by the bruises on her face. Liz leaves early the next day with another migraine, and Kristina quickly packs a bag for herself and Noah. They hitchhike to Nonie's house, where Kristina gives Nonie $1,000 for her car, which Nonie will say was stolen.

At Alma's house Kristina is still in the kitchen, looking out the plastic-covered window. Alma isn't home yet, but Kristina doesn't mind—she's "glad to have had this time with Eli." She and Noah won't stay for long. She'll change their names and backstories, "watching, hiding, running—that way at least she'll be with Eli for good."

Analysis

Deborah Eisenberg's narrators and characters never provide the reader with more information than is necessary at any given moment. Backstories are presented as characters' memories, which are often incomplete, while other pertinent information like ages, locations, relationships, and events are indicated along the way. Eisenberg's characters' conversations are written like real conversations between friends and acquaintances—no extra information is given to explicitly tell the reader what's going on. This distinct style of writing directly influences the structure of Eisenberg's stories. "Window" is a good example. The story begins with Kristina, Noah, and Alma at Alma's house. The reader doesn't know who they are, how they know each other, or why they're all together. Alma tells her date Gerry Noah is "theirs," which makes it seem like she and Kristina are, or at least were, a couple. The reader's perception of the opening scene changes over and over again as Kristina's story unfolds. This structure enhances the increasingly tense mood of the piece, which captivates the reader until the very end.

Eisenberg is known for writing complicated, hard-to-like characters, and Kristina is no exception. She is aimless until she meets Eli, who immediately separates her from her only friends and keeps her locked away in his nearly off-the-grid cabin in the woods. Kristina knows it's crazy, and she knows it isn't exactly safe, but she goes with him because she doesn't have any better alternatives. She stays with him even though it sometimes appears she means little more to him than her ability to care for Noah, and she continues to stay even after she figures out he is some sort of backwoods arms dealer who doesn't trust anyone. It's an incredibly dangerous place for an adult woman to live, let alone a toddler. But Kristina doesn't care about any of that—she only cares someone as interesting and smart and attractive as Eli would want her. "She never imagined, or even dared hope" a man like Eli would come into her life, even only for a little while. She remains in denial about his true nature even after he beats her, and their days spent cuddling in bed while she recovers are some of her happiest memories.

Kristina's continued desire to be with Eli after he nearly kills her seems counterintuitive at best. It's important to understand Kristina doesn't only love the version of Eli who swept her off her feet—she loves the very idea of him and what he represents. Life with Eli seems brighter than when Kristina was on her own. Everything is crisp and in the right place, unlike the "prissy," "painted town" where she lived with Nonie and Munsen for a year. "Oh, those shining floors, that quiet, the breathing shadows! Will she ever see it again?" she wonders in Alma's kitchen. It's unclear what Kristina was running away from when she first came to Nonie and Munsen's town, but she found respite from whatever it was in the seclusion of the woods. Despite the clandestine business deals and Eli's wildly swinging moods, life is calm there. Even the passage of time seems slower. Kristina and Eli are together for approximately five months (Nonie is about five months pregnant when Kristina moves out; when she and Noah run away the baby is still a newborn), but Eisenberg writes about their time together as if it were years, always noting the changing of the seasons, the activities of the forest animals, and the prolonged discord between Noah and Kristina. To the reader it seems Noah resists Kristina for a year, but it's really only two months or so.

Eli's cabin is the first place Kristina ever felt content—she doesn't consult her atlas for the next place to go like she did at Nonie's house, nor does she stare out the window and daydream of a life more fulfilling than the one she already has. The cabin is also the first place Kristina really has a purpose. She's just another young waitress trying to make ends meet when she first meets Eli. She had no ambitions and no real place to call home. She and Eli have a few conversations and before she knows it she's suddenly living as a wife and mother. For the first time in her life, people need her. More importantly, she's part of a family. The only person she ever really considered family before this was Alma, and they hadn't spoken for years. Kristina has no intention of going back to Eli, but she also doesn't want to lose the life he gave her.

The life Eli gave Kristina originally belonged to someone else. It's not clear what exactly happened to Zoe. Eli's explanation she just left him and Noah may be true, but there's also the possibility something much worse happened. The description of the day Kristina and Noah run away hints this might be the case. The narrator says, "Zoe's sorrowing angel spirit ... passed her hand across Liz's brow," setting off another migraine. "Sorrowing angel spirit" indicates Zoe is indeed dead, or at least Kristina thinks she is. That makes sense since Kristina thought Zoe "looked like she was drifting there between the land of the living and the land of the dead" when she caught a glimpse of her at the bar months before. Zoe stayed longer than Kristina—long enough to have Eli's baby—and she was much the worse for it. Even if she did just run away, her ghost remains in Kristina's life. Kristina feels an odd sense of duty to Zoe, and she probably always will.

The feeling she has lives unlived no longer plagues Kristina—she has already experienced her version of an idyllic life, and she doesn't seem to mind going back to living in "a nondescript room in a busy city where she'll be able to lose herself." Her focus now is survival, both hers and Noah's. Kristina feels responsible for Noah even though she isn't his biological mother, and unlike his biological mother, she took him with her when she left. Noah needs someone to look out for him, and Eli can't be trusted to do it. She will fill the role Alma once played for her while Noah will give her what she really wants: a little piece of Eli right by her side.

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