They debate and tell stories to each other, attempting to regain their ethnic roots. A "contrarian", Milton enjoys debating Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger and lamenting the steep cost of church candles. Eugenides repeatedly returns to the gathering prior to Cal's conception, to "manufacture a psychology that drives his narration". As the immigrants attempt to maintain their identity, the stage is set for Cal's writing even before he is conceived.
The Greek immigrant family experiences a three-phase acculturation that occurs to immigrant families, according to scholar Merton Lee's research about sociologist George A. Kourvetaris ' work. Each generation identifies with different nationalities and cultures.
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In the third generation, the grandchildren, who comprise the most acculturated group, characterize themselves with "Greek-immigration status as a class". The Stephanides lineage is from Bithynios, a village in Asia Minor where the Greek middleman minority is inclined to be in uneasy relations with the Turkish majority.
The people of the middleman minority do not assimilate because of their small mercantile businesses and because their host country is antagonistic towards them. Desdemona, a first-generation Greek immigrant, reflects a fixation with not assimilating. She tells her husband Lefty that she does not want to become an "Amerikanidha" and is frightened that her cousin Lina's husband, Jimmy Zizmo, is a Pontian Greek. Daniel Soar opined that Olympus , a parallel to Bithynios, served well as the starting point of a debacle the eventual birth of an intersex person that is the "story's catalyst". In Mount Olympus during Justinian 's days, silkworm eggs were contraband transported from China to Byzantium by missionaries.
Because the silkworm eggs are considered parasites by the immigration officials, Desdemona must dispose of them. Middlesex has several allusions to Greek classical myths;  for example, the protagonist is named after Calliope , the muse of heroic poetry. Eugenides and several critics compared Cal's condition to mythical creatures described by the ancient Greeks.
The author alluded his protagonist's nature and heritage to the Minotaur , the half-man and half-bull creature. The mythical monster is an analogy for a complex personality, a mixture of body parts from various animals that each represents a human aspect or characteristic.
Similarly, adolescent Callie is an amalgamation of her genes, neither male nor female, neither adult nor child, and yet all of them at the same time. Whereas the mythical hero is troubled by Poseidon and succored by Athena , the intersex protagonist is affected by his chromosomes in a similar manner. In a manner similar to Oedipus 's fulfillment of Pythia 's prophecy to slay his father and marry his mother, Callie validates the prediction her grandmother made before her birth by adopting a male identity. The novel examines the nature versus nurture debate in detail.
That's genetic, too. Callie inherited the mutation for a gene that causes 5-alpha-reductase deficiency, which impedes the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. While the former hormone causes the brain to become masculine, it is the latter that molds male genitals. Peter Luce, a foremost expert on hermaphroditism , who believes she should retain her female identity.
Luce plans a gender reassignment surgery to make her a female. However, Callie knows that she is sexually attracted to females, and decides to run away to pursue a male identity. Mark Lawson of The Guardian noted that the cause of Cal's hermaphroditic condition is an inherited recessive gene. Similarly, Cal's gender cannot be defined solely as male or female. Rather, it is both male and female.
Thus, the novel pits evolutionary biology against free will. Explaining that gender is a "very American concept", he believes that "humans are freer than we realize. Less genetically encumbered. Raised as a girl, Cal views himself as a girl who likes other girls. However, when Callie discovers that he could have been raised as a boy, he renounces his female gender, recognizing his chosen gender identity as a male.
Disowning the female gender before he learned about masculine traits bolsters the argument for the " essentialist ideology of identity". Cal exhibits many masculine characteristics when he is a child. While his female classmates are turned off by the blood in the Iliad , Cal is "thrilled to [read about] the stabbings and beheadings, the gouging out of eyes, the juicy eviscerations.
Or do girls see through the tricks, too, and just pretend not to notice? Cal also exhibits feminine characteristics, which allows Dr.
Luce to classify her as possessing a female gender identity. In a home video taken when Cal was a child, his mother gives him a doll and he nurses it with a milk bottle. Luce carefully observes Callie's actions and diagnoses them as feminine, which causes him to determine that Callie has a feminine gender identity. Luce then concludes that gender identity is nurtured and etched into children at their young ages. Determining sex is paradoxical because the characters believe that the outward view of genitalia identifies one's sex; Cal's transformation into a male shatters this belief and the methodology behind determining gender.
Eugenides addresses how difficult it was for humans to devise a "universal classification for sex". According to intersex activist and academic Morgan Holmes , Eugenides posits that a person's sexual attraction determines his or her gender. She wrote that by making these choices in the novel, Eugenides agrees with the belief that being attracted to females is "masculine" and thus it is "more natural" for a male to be attracted to a female than a female be attracted to a female.
As an adult, Cal brags, "Breasts have the same effect on me as on anyone with my testosterone level. Bartkowski stated that Eugenides' message is "we must let our monsters out—they demand and deserve recognition—they are us: our same, self, others. Seven Graham wrote in Ariel , a journal published by the University of Calgary , that Eugenides' "persisen[t]" use of the word "hermaphrodite", instead of "intersex", alludes to Hermaphroditus.
Hermaphroditus, a young man, is chased by the nymph Salmacis. She begs the Gods to bind her and Hermaphroditus together, and the Gods literally fulfill her wish.
Hermaphroditus' name is a compound of his parent's names— Hermes and Aphrodite. He instantaneously turns into someone of both sexes. Devastated because he is no longer fully male, he "curses" the location where he first met Salmacis.
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Based on this origin story, the hermaphrodite's lot is miserable, associated with disempowerment, the theft of identity and an unhappy dual existence. In addition, the term "hermaphrodite" may be deemed problematic because it alludes to an impossible state of being: no-one can be equally male and female and the preferred term "intersex" indicates a blended rather than divided state.
While the modern term might indicate the possibility of redefining sexual ambivalence, Cal is associated in the novel with the mythic term and all it connotes. His connection to this tragic figure is confirmed by his performance as "Hermaphroditus" in a sex show at the age of fourteen, just as he is beginning his female to male transition. Writing that he belongs to the Intersex Society of America, Cal notes that he has not participated in any of the group's rallies because he is not a "political person".
In the s, Bernice L. Hausman described "intersexuality" as a "continuum of physiological and anatomical sex differences", contesting the notion of a "true sex" concealed in the tissues of the body. Though "hermaphrodite" is burdened by the implications of the anomaly, "intersexuality" is a neologism that tries to "naturalize various sexes, which themselves are naturally occurring.
Eugenides replied that he reserved "hermaphrodite" for a literary character: Hermaphroditus. He further stated: "When speaking about real people, I should—and I do my best to—use the term 'intersex'. Their action is reminiscent, Eugenides wrote, of how some members of the gay community have "reclaimed" the term "queer". Eugenides stated that it is no surprise that Cal uses "hermaphrodite" and further elaborated: "It's paradoxical: Cal can say 'hermaphodite' but I can't.
Or shouldn't. Incest and intersex is another theme in Middlesex. Eugenides examines the passionate feelings that siblings living in seclusion experience for each other. Cal believes this interference was a factor in his being intersex. Thea Hillman, an intersex activist and board member for the now defunct Intersex Society of North America ISNA , wrote in the Lambda Book Report , , that the combination of incest and intersex is "inaccurate and misleading". Noting that incest is a loathed social taboo that has "shameful, pathological and criminal repercussions", she criticized Eugenides for underscoring that Cal's intersex condition is due to incest.
Hillman stated that this adds to the fallacious belief that intersex people are "shameful and sick" and a danger to society's wellbeing. Seven Graham agrees with Hillman and Holmes, writing that Cal is paralleled with the tragic Greek mythological characters Hermaphroditus , Tiresias , and the Minotaur. They listed the marriage of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta , as well as the son Adonis produced by the incest between Theias and his daughter Smyrna as examples. In , Middlesex was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Like the masks of Greek drama, Middlesex is equal parts comedy and tragedy, but its real triumph is its emotional abundance, delivered with consummate authority and grace.
A waiter brought champagne to Eugenides, and Greek women started kissing him. Read by Kristoffer Tabori , the audiobook has 28 sides, each side having a unique style of introductory music that complements the atmosphere and plot of the saga. Some critics were dissatisfied with the scope of the novel.
Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly called the novel a "big-hearted, restless story" and rated it an A minus. He wrote Eugenides was successful with the story of the Greek immigrants, which he described as "authenti[c]", but mishandled the hermaphrodite material, which Mendelsohn characterized as "unpersuasiv[e]".
Zaleski wrote that "[i]t's difficult to imagine any serious male writer of earlier eras so effortlessly transcending the stereotypes of gender. Marta Salij of the Detroit Free Press was impressed with the book's depiction of Detroit, writing "[a]t last Detroit has its novel.
What Dublin got from James Joyce —a sprawling, ambitious, loving, exasperated and playful chronicle of all its good and bad parts—Detroit has from native son Eugenides in these pages. Any book that can make a reader actively want to visit Detroit must have one honey of a tiger in its tank. Several critics have nominated the book for the title of " Great American Novel ". Sutter in John Henry Days. David Gates of Newsweek contrasted Eugenides' debut novel The Virgin Suicides with Middlesex , writing that the first novel was "ingenious", "entertaining", and "oddly moving", but that Middlesex is "ingenious", "entertaining", and "ultimately not-so-moving".
According to Olivia Banner of Signs , medical journals generally had positive reviews of the novel for its depiction of the inner lives of intersex people. Because our interactions usually take place in limited and structured setting such as offices and hospitals, pediatricians have scant opportunity to learn how our young patients think. One way to sharpen our awareness is to listen to children's voices as they are expressed in books.
In Middlesex , the voice is loud and clear. She posited that the problematic issues of a "heteromasculine-identified narrator" and the "fact that it was authored by a heterosexual man" may have been outweighed by the necessity for an appropriate reading that "destigmatizes ambiguous sex". Eugenides' third novel, The Marriage Plot , was published in Reviewer William Deresiewicz contrasted The Marriage Plot and Middlesex , writing that the former was "far more intimate in tone and scale".
The Marriage Plot follows two years in the lives of three characters, fourth-year Brown University students in , whereas Middlesex follows the lives of three generations of characters.