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2 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z

Middlesex

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Middlesex Cover

ISBN13: 9780374199692
ISBN10: 0374199698
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. Describing his own conception, Cal writes: "The timing of the thing had to be just so in order for me to become the person I am. Delay the act by an hour and you change the gene selection." (p. 11) Is Cals condition a result of chance or fate? Which of these forces governs the world as Cal sees it?

2. Middlesex begins just before Cals birth in 1960, then moves backward in time to 1922. Cal is born at the beginning of Book Three, about halfway through the novel. Why did the author choose to structure the story this way? How does this movement backward and forward in time reflect the larger themes of the work?

3. When Tessie and Milton decide to try to influence the sex of their baby, Desdemona disapproves. "God decides what baby is," she says. "Not you." (p.13) What happens when characters in the novel challenge fate?

4. "To be honest, the amusement grounds should be closed at this hour, but, for my own purposes, tonight Electric Park is open all night, and the fog suddenly lifts, all so that my grandfather can look out the window and see a roller coaster streaking down the track. A moment of cheap symbolism only, and then I have to bow to the strict rules of realism, which is to say: they cant see a thing." (pp. 110-11) Occasionally, Cal interrupts his own narrative, calling attention to himself and the artifice inherent in his story. What purpose do these interruptions serve? Is Cal a reliable narrator?

5. "Ive never had the right words to describe my life, and now that Ive entered my story, I need them more than ever," Cal writes (p. 217). How does Cal narrate the events that take place before his birth? Does his perspective as a narrator change when he is recounting events that take place after he is born?

6. "All I know is this: despite my androgenized brain, theres an innate feminine circularity in the story I have to tell." (p.20) What does Cal mean by this? Is his manner of telling his story connected to the question of his gender? How?

7. How are Cals early sexual experiences similar to those of an adolescent? How are they different? Are the differences more significant than the similarities?

8. Why does Cal decide to live as a man rather than as a woman?

9. How does Cals experience reflect on the "nature vs. nurture" debate about gender identity?

10. Who is Johnny Zizmo? How does he influence the course of events in the novel?

11. What is Dr. Luces role in the novel? Would you describe him as a villain?

12. Calliope is the name the classical Greek muse of eloquence and epic poetry. What elements of Greek mythology figure in Cals story? Is this novel meant to be a new myth?

13. How is Cals experience living within two genders similar to the immigrant experience of living within two cultures? How is it different?

14. Middlesex is set against the backdrop of several historical events: the war between Greece and Turkey, the rise of the Nation of Islam, World War II, and the Detroit riots. How does history shape the lives of the characters in the novel?

15. What does America represent for Desdemona? For Milton? For Cal? To what extent do you think these characters different visions of America correspond to their status as first-, second-, and third-generation Greek Americans?

16. What role does race play in the novel? How do the Detroit riots of 1967 affect the Stephanides family and Cal, specifically?

17. Describe Middlesex. Does the house have a symbolic function in the novel?

18. "Everything about Middlesex spoke of forgetting and everything about Desdemona made plain the inescapability of remembering," Cal writes (p.273). How and when do Desdemonas Old World values conflict with the ethos of America, and, specifically, of Middlesex?

19. The final sentence of the novel reads: "I lost track after a while, happy to be home, weeping for my father, and thinking about what was next." (p. 529) What is next for Cal? Does the author give us reason to believe that Cals relationship with Julie will be successful?

20. "Watching from the cab, Milton came face-to-face with the essence of tragedy, which is something determined before youre born, something you cant escape or do anything about, no matter how hard you try." (p. 426) According to this definition, is Cals story a tragedy?

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

jesmith44, January 17, 2008 (view all comments by jesmith44)
I am just about to finish Middlesex and I do not know why the boy is called Chapter Eleven.Did I miss something? Jennifer Smith
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(9 of 23 readers found this comment helpful)
christi, December 4, 2006 (view all comments by christi)
Jeffrey Eugenides' book is a serious contender for the best narrative of all time. It's a wild ride full of history and mystery the past as it relates to the present. The premise is the long history of a Greek family and how specific events lead to the birth of Calliope, the story's main character. Calliope, herself, is not feed of the turmoil of the past and that begins what is almost a second novel. it's not a novel for everyone (it deals with sexuality and brutality), but having read it, I can't imagine life without it.
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(24 of 47 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780374199692
Subtitle:
A Novel
Author:
Eugenides, Jeffrey
Author:
Tabori, Kristoffer
Publisher:
Picador
Location:
New York
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
City and town life
Subject:
Teenagers
Subject:
Gender identity
Subject:
Suburban life
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Greek Americans
Subject:
Detroit
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
10288
Publication Date:
September 2002
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
17 cds, 21 hours
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
9.00 x 6.00 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Middlesex Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 544 pages Farrar Straus Giroux - English 9780374199692 Reviews:
"Review" by , "With a sure yet light-handed touch, Eugenides skillfully bends our notions of gender as we realize, along with Cal, that although he has been raised as a girl, he is more comfortable as a boy."
"Review" by , "Middlesex vibrates with wit....A virtuosic combination of elegy, sociohistorical study, and picaresque adventure: altogether irrestistable."
"Synopsis" by ,
In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school, Grosse Pointe, MI, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry-blonde classmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them - along with Callie's failure to develop - leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. The explanation for this shocking state of affairs takes us out of suburbia - back before the Detroit race riots of 1967, before the rise of the Motor City, to 1922, when the Turks sacked Smyrna and Callie's grandparents fled for their lives, back to a tiny village in Asia Minor where two lovers, and one rare genetic mutation, set in motion the metamorphosis that will turn Callie into a being both mythical and perfectly real: a hermaphrodite.

Sprawling across eight decades - and one unusually awkward adolescence - Jeffrey Eugenide's long-awaited second novel is a grand, utterly original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire.

Winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the Audie Award for best unabridged fiction, Middlesex marks the fulfillment of a huge talent, named one of America's best young novelists by both Granta and The New Yorker.

"Synopsis" by ,
A dazzling triumph from the bestselling author of The Virgin Suicides--the astonishing tale of a gene that passes down through three generations of a Greek-American family and flowers in the body of a teenage girl.

In the spring of 1974, Calliope Stephanides, a student at a girls' school in Grosse Pointe, finds herself drawn to a chain-smoking, strawberry blond clasmate with a gift for acting. The passion that furtively develops between them--along with Callie's failure to develop--leads Callie to suspect that she is not like other girls. In fact, she is not really a girl at all.

The explanation for this shocking state of affairs takes us out of suburbia- back before the Detroit race riots of 1967, before the rise of the Motor City and Prohibition, to 1922, when the Turks sacked Smyrna and Callie's grandparents fled for their lives. Back to a tiny village in Asia Minor where two lovers, and one rare genetic mutation, set in motion the metamorphosis that will turn Callie into a being both mythical and perfectly real: a hermaphrodite.

Spanning eight decades--and one unusually awkward adolescence- Jeffrey Eugenides's long-awaited second novel is a grand, utterly original fable of crossed bloodlines, the intricacies of gender, and the deep, untidy promptings of desire. It marks the fulfillment of a huge talent, named one of America's best young novelists by both Granta and The New Yorker.

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