Jeffrey Eugenides’s book Middlesex

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In Jeffrey Eugenides’s book Middlesex, Calliope Stephanide tells the story of not only her transformation, but also the world’s transformation into a completely different entity. Brother and sister become husband and wife, Greeks become Americans, and, most importantly, a young girl becomes a man. Along with being a transformative novel, Middlesex is also considered a modern epic. It is an epic account that retells the history of a recessive chromosome that made its way into the life of the main character. Cal describes this recessive chromosome’s journey as it travels through many imposing events: “Cal needs to tell the story of his past in order to function in the present” (Cohen). This genetic chromosome survives a fire in Smyrna, the trip to America and through Ellis Island, Detroit during the race riots, and gradually makes its way into the body of Cal Stephanides. “Middlesex, therefore, is a Bildungsroman with a rather big twist: the Bildung it describes turns out to be the wrong one—a false start” (Mendelsohn 1). Through the hardships in life, Calliope describes how she eventually becomes known as Cal.

Middlesex can be considered a traditional epic as well as a modern one. Middlesex has many of the requirements of a traditional epic. The novel offers a vast setting, covering many nations. War caused Lefty and Desdemona, Cal’s grandparents, to leave their home in the small village of Bithynios, Greece. Thinking that their chances of leaving Greece and heading towards American were higher if they were married, the siblings pose as husband and wife. This pretend marriage leads to a complicated affair. Lefty and Desdemona’s immoral affair continues as they travel to America, believing that, since no one will ever di...

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...even traumatic things, turn out all right in the end. The desire for closure at the heart of the historical vision of Middlesex, I believe, is common to many aspects of American culture after 9/11”(Cohen 376). Eugenides provides a new view of American history by showing an account of an immigrant’s travels from a far away country to America and how they, as well as their children, live and continue to exist.

Works Cited

Eugenides, Jeffery. Middlesex. New York: Picador, 2002.

Mendelsohn, Daniel. "Mighty Hermaphrodite". The New York Review of Books. 07

Nov. 2002. 04 Nov. 2002 <>.

Watman, Max. Suffer the Children. New York: The New Criterion, 2002.

Cohen, Samuel. “The Novel in a Time of Terror: Middlesex, History, and Contemporary American Fiction.” Twentieth Century Literature, Web. 5 November 2009. 2002.
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