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Bill_T
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Registered: ‎03-20-2007
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Middle Chapters Discussion: Desdemona and Middlesex

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



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.
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LaurenKondrat
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion: Desdemona and Middlesex

Personally, I think that Desdemona and America but heads from the moment she gets off the boat. Sure, she has some moments of happiness in the new country, but she is never really uninhibited, always comparing and referring back to what she is used to. There are numerous examples of Desdemona's conflicting values, but the one I think of first is when Desdemona starts to talk about not wanting a girl because then you have to have a dowry. She is then reminded that they don't do that in America.

I can't really explain what I think about the conflict between Desdemona and Middlesex. For some reason I can't seem to find the right way to say it, so this might not make sense. I guess I think that Middlesex represents to Desdemona everything that is not what she is used to. She lives in a house that her son bought with cash because being Greek at the time, the bank discriminated against them. She is forced to continually update herself and get used to things she didn't have to get used to living in the house she shared with the Zizmos in Detroit. The community in Gross Point is very different and much more anonymous than life in the village in the old country, and even in Detroit.... And finally, she is understanding her family less and less as they distance themselves from their roots. Essentially, she is an old Greek woman living with a bunch of Americans. She would rather hole up in the attic and put herself on bedrest than learn to adapt to the changing world. And really, can we blame her? She never wanted to leave her homeland but is forced to, she never wanted to live in her son's house but she was forced to.
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CallMeLeo
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion: Desdemona and Middlesex


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






I agree with Lauren that Desdemona's conflict begins on setting foot on America's shores. Lefty is more willing to reinvent himself, forget the past, move on. He acclimates himself much better. But I think Desdemona's real turning point is when she discovers the potential consequences of her relationship with Lefty from Dr. Phil. We begin to see her physical and emotional withdrawal, entrenching herself in the past and in her nationality.

As for Middlesex, it is cold, hard, modern, sterile, parvenu - looking to the future. There is nothing warm and comforting about it. It is neutral. I find Desdemona's physical removal to the guest house a final rejection of her life in the states and what Middlesex represents.
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion: Desdemona and Middlesex

I agee too that America had a debilitating effect on Des, but her decision (original sin?) to wed/bed Lefty is where her downfall begins.



CallMeLeo wrote:

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






I agree with Lauren that Desdemona's conflict begins on setting foot on America's shores. Lefty is more willing to reinvent himself, forget the past, move on. He acclimates himself much better. But I think Desdemona's real turning point is when she discovers the potential consequences of her relationship with Lefty from Dr. Phil. We begin to see her physical and emotional withdrawal, entrenching herself in the past and in her nationality.

As for Middlesex, it is cold, hard, modern, sterile, parvenu - looking to the future. There is nothing warm and comforting about it. It is neutral. I find Desdemona's physical removal to the guest house a final rejection of her life in the states and what Middlesex represents.


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CallMeLeo
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion: Desdemona and Middlesex

Thanks for pointing that out, Paul. I wonder if Des had chosen to not enter a physical relationship with Lefty if then she would have had a better chance to assimilate to her new country?

Her silkworms and olivewood box were a symbolic way of carrying the old world to the new, where the silkworms were promptly discarded at Ellis Island and she was left with an empty box. And if assimilation is another form of metamorphosis, it doesn't appear that Des was as successful as others.




PaulH wrote:
I agee too that America had a debilitating effect on Des, but her decision (original sin?) to wed/bed Lefty is where her downfall begins.



CallMeLeo wrote:

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






I agree with Lauren that Desdemona's conflict begins on setting foot on America's shores. Lefty is more willing to reinvent himself, forget the past, move on. He acclimates himself much better. But I think Desdemona's real turning point is when she discovers the potential consequences of her relationship with Lefty from Dr. Phil. We begin to see her physical and emotional withdrawal, entrenching herself in the past and in her nationality.

As for Middlesex, it is cold, hard, modern, sterile, parvenu - looking to the future. There is nothing warm and comforting about it. It is neutral. I find Desdemona's physical removal to the guest house a final rejection of her life in the states and what Middlesex represents.




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Paul_Hochman
Posts: 2,801
Registered: ‎03-23-2007
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Re: Middle Chapters Discussion: Desdemona and Middlesex

[ Edited ]
I definitely think so. She was, and had to be, always on her guard. The "secret" ruled her world and in turn effected everyone elses.



CallMeLeo wrote:
Thanks for pointing that out, Paul. I wonder if Des had chosen to not enter a physical relationship with Lefty if then she would have had a better chance to assimilate to her new country?

Message Edited by PaulH on 06-20-2007 04:33 PM


Message Edited by PaulH on 06-20-2007 04:33 PM
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