Middlesex Section 3 Reflection (Pages 215–318)
The third section of Middlesex begins with the birth of the main character, Cal, bringing the focus of the story to the main character at last. Earlier, when I read on page 17 “my father cried out, ‘Bingo!’ I was a girl,” I wondered whether the doctor who delivered him had told Cal’s parents about his intersexuality, as it seemed odd that Milton would immediately celebrate the sex of his baby if he knew there was a complication. By page 215, it is evident that they truly had no idea as both Dr. Philobosian and Rosalee, the nurse, were incompetent. Rosalee was from Appalachia, where “inbreeding is common… as are genetic deformities,” so she should have been trained to recognize such deformities, yet she noticed nothing, perhaps because she and the doctor were distracted by each other, as it was later noted that they married a year after Cal was born. Meanwhile, Eugenides uses visual imagery such as “a camel’s head, drooping on its neck” and “white hair… plugged his big ears like cotton” (216) to describe Dr. Philobosian, heavily implying that he has grown too old for his job and is no longer competent, as well as later describing him as having “failing eyesight” (226). Initially, I was surprised that Cal went home and was raised as a girl without being forced to undergo sex assignment surgery. I had never heard of intersexuality until I encountered the term on social media, and from what I have seen on there, I believed that intersex people were born with obviously ambiguous genitalia, leading them to undergo surgery as infants to attempt to make them biologically one sex; however, this is clearly not always the case, and Cal likely would have had the surgery if he had had a more competent doctor who fully examined him as a baby rather than getting distracted by his nurse.
On another note, this section contains a glimpse of the racism that erupted in Detroit in the 1960s. As noted by Marius, Milton and the majority of white people at the time were scared of black people, leading Milton to always have “at least three big fat officers of the so-called peace sitting at the counter” (230) of the Zebra Room, which was located in a primarily black neighborhood. Soon after, it is revealed that in order to try to prevent a race riot similar to those in Watts and Newark, the Detroit police were parking in front of bars in black neighborhoods and “herd[ing] the patrons into the vehicles without anyone seeing” (236). To me, this seems outrageous and unwise. It is no longer illegal to drink alcohol and as far as I know, there was no city-wide curfew, nor were these people in white-only bars, so I question why the police are even arresting them, especially given that they are trying to prevent a race riot. I am reminded somewhat of the police brutality of today, especially given the description of white attitudes toward black people on page 240: “We weren’t prejudiced against them. We wanted to include them in our society if they would only act normal!” The casual racism employed by white citizens of Detroit is the same as it is today in that most people do not outright hate black people for their race, they merely have belittling prejudices and only truly respect those who “act white”.
In the final chapter of the third section, Cal is sent to a private school to avoid being bused to an integrated school in Detroit, proving the lengths to which his parents and other white people of the 1970s would go to avoid contact with African-Americans. Of course, given that this is an all-girls school, I expect there will be a problem when Cal realizes he is not actually a girl.
Word Count: 638