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Bill_T
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Middle Chapters Discussion: A Rite of Passage

How are Cal's early sexual experiences similar to those of any adolescent? How are they different? Are the differences more significant than the similarities?



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bentley
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion: A Rite of Passage


Bill_T wrote:
How are Cal's early sexual experiences similar to those of any adolescent? How are they different? Are the differences more significant than the similarities?



Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have read more deeply into Middlesex, through the end of Book Three.If you wish to discuss plot elements introduced later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

Click on "Reply" to post your thoughts about this discussion topic, or click "New Message" on the main page to start a new topic thread.




The earliest mention of any encounters or experiences occurs on page one.

"A redheaded girl from Grosse pointe fell in love with me, not knowing what I was. (Her brother liked me, too.) An army tank led me into urban battle once; a swimming pool turned me into myth; I've left my body in order to occupy others - and all this happened before I turned sixteen."

In 1960, Calliope was born a girl (hemaphrodite); she was brought up as a girl until 1974 (14 years old) and I guess at that point in time became or started to become Cal.
Prior to being sixteen years old, there was certain gender confusion as the page one quote cites. It is obvious that Calliope/Cal did not know which camp he/she belonged to so his/her adolescent experiences were unusual to say the least.
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LaurenKondrat
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion: A Rite of Passage

The sexual experiences that Cal goes through are not unlike those I think we all have gone through. Mainly they serve as exploration. Cal's body is beginning to respond to different kinds of touch and likes that feeling. Though she does question if it is "okay" for her to be feeling these things about the Obscure Object, she still knows they are valid feelings and she can't ignore them.

As far as the differences go, I do not think they are more significant than the similarities because as far as I am in the book, they have only just started presenting themselves. She has notices that her private parts are somewhat different from the Object, but not enough to change things. It isn't until they go to the cabin in the woods that Cal really realizes that she is, in fact, different. That is the moment where Callie knows she is not like other girls...and also the moment I think she accepts it because all of her sexual experiences that follow with the Object are authentic.
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CallMeLeo
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion: A Rite of Passage


Bill_T wrote:
How are Cal's early sexual experiences similar to those of any adolescent? How are they different? Are the differences more significant than the similarities?



Note: This discussion topic is particularly suitable for readers who have read more deeply into Middlesex, through the end of Book Three.If you wish to discuss plot elements introduced later in the book, consider posting in a separate thread.

Click on "Reply" to post your thoughts about this discussion topic, or click "New Message" on the main page to start a new topic thread.




I think Cal's adolescent sexual discovery is much more painful because of her underlying awareness that something about her is not right, different. What is normally a painfully self-conscious time for most adolescents is amplified in her case because of her sense of shame among her peers. The fact that Cal pursues sexual relationships with the Object, a female, and her brother, a male, show her confusion about her sexuality - something most adolescents wouldn't do. Yet its a way to discover which feels more natural to her.

On the flip side, Eugenides portrays Cal's sexual experiences as normal: a blend of curiousity, peer pressure, hormones, sexual attraction, jealousy, and love.
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bentley
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion: A Rite of Passage (in Jeffrey Eugenides own words)

Here is another Q&A where a great question about inspiration and adolescence was discussed by JE. The Oprah site.


What inspired you to create a narrator like Cal?
Dear Jeffrey Eugenides,

While reading the book Middlesex, I felt quite an intense connection with the story's protagonist, who starts her life as a girl but realizes that she is quite different. As we read more, we learn that while she may be of both sexes, her story really is one that most people can relate to. Callopie's story involves many of the matters we as adolescents faced or face. Sexual identity, finding out who we really are and our true selves. What touched me most while reading Middlesex was that I read it when I was 14, so many of the character's struggles came close to home. So I will ask you this question: What inspired you to create a story where the narrator is one you wouldn't see in most books these days?

— Ben S.


Dear Ben,

For some reason I want to say, "Dear Ben," possibly because your question is intimate and so requires an intimate response, but also because your question makes me happy and warrants a proper thank-you note. Your reading of Middlesex is the reading I'd hoped people would have. It was never my intention to write a book about a "freak." I didn't see Calliope as unfortunate or even unusual. Consider Greek mythology. The tales of Zeus turning himself into a bull in order to seduce Europa, or of Narcissus falling in love with his own reflection, are fanciful. But they aren't inhuman. We recognize ourselves—our impulses, weaknesses, longings—in the Greek myths. You could say, then, that Middlesex is a modern myth. It's a modern myth about adolescence. What Calliope goes though is what we all go through, in the maelstrom of puberty. Her experience of the process, physically and psychologically, is merely more dramatic than our own. Callie's life differs from ours in degree but not in kind. So you saying that Calllie's "story is one that most people can relate to" is exactly right. Or at least, it's precisely what I'd hoped for.

— Jeffrey Eugenides