Middlesex: Assimilation Throughout Generations

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Middlesex: Assimilation Throughout Generations

In Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex, the protagonist and narrator, Cal, takes the reader through the generations of his family’s rich immigrant tale. Cal’s grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona, are Greek refugees who came to America during the Turkish invasion. Cal tells his family’s story through three generations, tracking the evolution of a mutant gene that ended up in his being a hermaphrodite. Aside from Cal’s search for true self, Eugenides creates a riveting story with each generation of the Stephanides family assimilating to the norm of their time and environments. For example, Lefty represents the classic American immigrant, striving to achieve success and capture the American Dream with all of its glory. In addition, his son, Milton plays the role of breadwinner, continuing to follow the example of his father with regard to business, and becomes completely Americanized. Finally, Callie is the first all American product of this family, but she finds herself faced with two different worlds, that of a girl and that of a boy. Callie finds herself throughout adolescence, trying to be like the other girls, when she is clearly different; similarly, later on, Cal’s life becomes a battle to become comfortable in his own skin. Eugenides creates a family who is constantly seeking something different from who they are, or what they have.

Lefty is a typical hardworking immigrant of the 1920’s, who comes to America seeking success to support his family. When Lefty arrives in Detroit, he is introduced to his cousin’s husband, Jimmy Zizmo, who is con artist and all around corrupt businessman. With Zizmo’s help, Lefty gets a job at Ford Motors, where he learns English; and at the same time, Zizmo teaches Lefty about being financially successful in America. Lina, Zizmo’s wife as well as Lefty and Desdemona’s cousin, serves as Lefty’s prototype of assimilation. Cal notes, “In the five years since leaving Turkey, Sourmelina...
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