Middesex; Part 3 (198–307)
In this section of pages the third book begins. With this section of the book the narrator finally becomes apart of the story. The narrator addresses this, and openly states that from now on the memoir will be riddled with subjective bias because he/she is actually taking part in the events of the story. By doing this the author builds the ethos of the narrator. The narrator’s openness to his/her own emotions affecting the story makes the reader more trusting. While this tactic is important primarily in non-fiction because that’s when it is most important for the audience to trust the speaker, as the readers of a fictional narrator this truthfulness makes the character seem even more real to us. During this section the riots in Detroit also take place, Eugenides uses this as another opportunity to address the most prevalent theme in the book: identity. Cal/Calliope’s own struggles are with his/her own identity, but Eugenides draws parallels between this individual identity and racial identity to provide a showcase for the bias developed when someone’s identity is different from our own. This bias is shown through the racism visible in the Stephanide’s family. While it isn’t completely blatant racism it is an excused racism that is almost worse. The belief that by tolerating a person or a group of people and trying to change them in a way to make them more similar to ourselves isn’t wrong, is often more damaging than racial slurs or attacks. This belief is seen in the lines, “We weren’t prejudiced against them. We wanted to include them in our society if they would only act normal!’’ This mindset is so important to the overall message Eugenides is trying to convey about identity because it is still something that we do today. While racially this may not be as prevalent, our treatment of those who have to deal with disorders, or anything that makes them different isn’t one of acceptance, but tolerance. We tolerate what is different, but continue to believe we can change it. This is an important message for Eugenides to make clear because it emphasizes the struggle Cal/Calliope faces with who she/he is and why that struggle is relevant to the reader. In this section of the book, we start to see this inner conflict in Cal/Calliope much more clearly. He/she has talked about his/her superficial aspects, such as looks (specifically his/her body being well built and in shape) and how he/she is well dressed. His/her need to make these things known to the reader reveals some self-consciousness and uncomfortableness Cal/Calliope has with his/herself. This is shown when he discusses what he is dressing, “…I tried to dress down. It isn’t easy for me.” He/her in a way backhandedly compliments his/her own style again. This is the first time the narrator has done this, but is the most obvious poke at the reader to notice this aspect of the narrator. He/she also does this with his/her physique when making an off-hand comment about the naturists, “…I always wonder: What is it like to feel free like that? I mean, my body is so much better than theirs. I’m the one with the well-defined biceps, the bulging pectorals, the burnished glutes.” Cal/Calliope feels the need to remind the reader about his muscularness, but also reveals in that line the lack of freedom he has. Mentally he/she has imprisoned himself by deciding what is and isn’t available to him/her because of who he/she. This is something that I and I think most people can identify with. We place these mental blocks on ourselves limiting what is available to us. Cal/Calliope’s reasoning for this because of his/her genetic abnormality is far more understandable, but Eugenides makes the point through this that because of society’s inability to accept differences anybody that is different will struggle with what they feel society expects from them. In our mind, unable to meet society’s expectation of us to conform, we decide that there are certain things we just shouldn’t do and in that way limit our own freedoms. This idea is something I have thought about a lot recently because of a book I read recently named Jonathan Livingston Seagull. The main character Jon, who is a seagull, is held back by a community that believes his differences are weaknesses, and it isn’t until he recognizes his differences are his strengths that he is able to grow into something far greater than he or his community expected. The idea that one of the things that holds us back is an inability to accept our true identity is something that Eugenides would definitely agree with. I’m excited to continue reading about the development of Cal/Calliope as a person in the coming pages.