Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

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Middlesex is an outline of the life of Calliope Stephanides who grew to the age of fourteen believing that she was a girl with unnatural thoughts for the same sex. As puberty takes hold of her friends and classmates, both Calliope and her family begin to worry about the growing gap between her and the average teenage girl; this marks the beginning of a new life for Calliope who finds she is really a he. Under the new name, Cal, this individual struggles with identity management as he traces his transformation from female to male and the genetic condition, beginning with his paternal grandparents that caused it. “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smog less Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974”. (Middlesex, p.3).

The emergence of Calliope’s mutated chromosome that produced both sex organs began long before her arrival. Throughout the Stephanides Ancestral family tree, there are accounts of inter-family marriage. Middlesex describes two specific accounts of incest beginning with Calliope’s grandparents, Lefty and Desdemona. The family originates from Greece, the grandparents from Bithynios where their lives began as biological brother and sister until tragedy struck their village and they found only each other for comfort and support. The second inter-family marriage is between Calliope’s own parents, Milton and Tessie, who where second cousins at birth, but fell in love at a young age. Despite Desdemona’s efforts to keep the two cousins apart, they married and had two children, one of which became Cal.

The Greek background and the trauma Calliope’s grandparents faced before coming to America shapes the actions taken that lead to the late discovery of Calliope’s real existence. Desdemona and Lefty faced many challenges during their transition from Greece to the United States and having to adjust to American culture was difficult. It was only natural for the pair to initially want to reside with tradition and not venture. Desdemona found it the hardest to succumb to American culture, and never fully did. . Upon arrival at Ellis Island Desdemona was forced to adopt the style of a typical American woman by cutting her long silky hair very short and stripped of her shawl and kerchief to be dressed in a dropped waist dress and floppy hat typical of the time. Desdemona was not pleased and resorted back to her traditional long hair for the remainder of her life; she was not quick to accept the differences from Greece. However, Desdemona followed Lefty through his American adventures and activities. Lefty on the other hand was eager to take on the American lifestyle and quickly adjusted to his new home. In research done by Angela Boukourakis for the book, It’s Greek to Me, she found the variation for males and females in time needed to adjust to be typical for individuals with Greek backgrounds. Both males and females successfully achieve the “third” space of Greek-American identity in contemporary America. However, from a historical perspective, males assimilated more easily, and more often than females…took females much longer than males…because of Greek traditional Gender roles…allows males more freedom for self-definition… (Boukourakis, p.2).

After Tessie and Milton had grown and began their family in Detroit, this imbalance of assimilation still occurred between the Greek-American Stephanides family. The family was struggling in Detroit to keep afloat with the surrounding area quickly declining, so Milton made the decision to move his family to Grosse Point, a nice family oriented neighborhood away from the crime erupting around their former residence. Finding a realtor that would honestly work with Milton to attain a new home was difficult. Even though the Stephanides family was born in America their...
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