Middlesex; Part 1 (1–106)
The book is around 500 pages, so I did my best to cut each section around 100 words and have them end at the end of a chapter. This particular section included the entire first book and the first chapter of the second book. We are introduced to both the narrator of the story, Cal or Calliope, who so far remains unborn. We are then introduced to his/her family. What Eugenides does in these first 100 pages is paint some of the most vivid and alive characters I have ever read. I have to keep reminding myself that the narrator and these characters aren’t actually real. The character that is the most apparent example of this is Desdemona, the grandmother of the narrator. With both the description of her blocking off Chapter 11 (brother of the narrator/name I’m very interested in discovering the origin of), and the description of her Greek rituals and traditions in predicting the baby’s sex, we are introduced to a character who stands strong in her beliefs and traditions, but who is also deeply respected by her family. Each character in these beginning chapters is written in an equally revealing way, establishing the importance of each person to Cal/Calliope’s life. Not only do the little aspects/details teach the reader more about each character, but they build the character of the narrator as well. Like the importance of history to her father Milton, the reader starts to see how the narrator has been molded and shaped by her family. This theme of our person being completely created and shaped by our family is expanded on by Eugenides in the way he has the narrator explore her family history in this fictional memoir before actually talking about her life. While this is one of the most prevalent themes, Eugenides also introduces us to what I’m guessing will be a theme of science vs. tradition or religion. This clash is seen through the difference of methods used from one generation of family to the next when Desdemona and Milton disagree over the sex of the child (pg. 6). Though my idea that this will be a theme throughout is purely a guess, one of the really interesting things that Eugenides did was the importance he has had the narrator place on science and more specifically genetics. This is shown in the pages where the narrator talks through his/her forming in the womb, and then as he/she mentions the extra chromosome throughout the first 100 pages. This idea that everything that led to the creation of Cal/Calliope, was purely genetic and scientific, is something that the narrator seems to suggest. Yet, this contrasts heavily with the huge importance placed on the familial history that builds up to his/her birth. Again this contrast between science and tradition stands out heavily. One of the things that I thought was incredible about the way this is written is that while there is a contrast drawn between the science/genetics that created Cal/Calliope and the family/family history that has made him/her the person that he/she is, is that they are incredibly similar, and there seems to almost be a metaphorical comparison between the two. Genetics shape every single part of who we are as a person, from our hair color to the way our brain works, and they are made of microscopic and unnoticeable parts that all add up to create something amazing. The story the narrator tells follows that same idea, with its inclusion of even the smallest little details and parts. The way Cal/Calliope makes every part of her family history from the place her grandparents lived to the type of silk her grandmother wove, important adds to this idea she is establishing that though she can be scientifically explained what made her who she is, is her family. I’m going to jump back to the one of the first things I mentioned which was the beautiful characterization in this book. This characterization makes me not only care more about the characters, but it also makes them a lot more relatable. A way that Eugenides adds to this without traditional description or imagery is the way in which he displays relationships. He does this very early on when having the narrator describe the imagined relationship Milton has with his unborn daughter and then when describing the brother/sister relationship between Desdemona and Lefty. What’s beautiful about the way that he builds both relationships is that it is without any dialogue or interaction between the people in the relationships. Milton on pg. 6 imagines his little girl and the future conversations he will have with her and this makes him instantly relatable as a father. Eugenides then creates a metaphor (now one of my favorite metaphors) comparing them as younger brother and sister to a Siamese shadow. This really resonated with me as I have a younger sister, and especially as children the connection you have seems to be inseparable. Both uses of figurative language with the metaphor and an almost apostrophe as Milton interacts with a daughter that really isn’t there, build the characters, and the intimacy of these relationships. I’m really looking forward to seeing the continual building of these characters through the rest of the book. I’m also ready to read about Cal/Calliope’s actual life.