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bentley
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The Obscure Object

Thought that I would start a thread to discuss the Obscure Object and the relationship that Calliope/Cal had with her. She seemed like an interesting character that had a profound influence on Calliope and her adolescence. In spite of the fact that Eugenides only named her the Obscure Object (Calliope/Cal said to protect this fictitious person), this character was very well defined in the novel.

What was your impression of this character, what was the impact this character had upon Cal/Calliope and what if any relationship did this character have in regards to the novel's plot development and/or key themes? Did the Obscure Object benefit in any way; why or why not?
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: The Obscure Object

Good thread, Bentley.

To me, the following line is an important assessment of the Obsure Object:

"did Calliope feel any inkling of her true biological nature?" Pg. 327

I say YES. T.O.O. has such a powerful and important presence in Cal/Calliope's life that she/he actually begins to question her/his very being.
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CallMeLeo
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Re: The Obscure Object

I think TOO is a combination of girlfriend and love interest for Cal/Calliope. The fact that Cal finds both in one person mirrors his own duality. He responds to her as a male and female. And like any other teenage he finds an instrument to explore his sexuality. That Calliope never questions his/her potential lesbianism is interesting, but measured against love, attraction, and acceptance perhaps it isn't as important.



bentley wrote:
Thought that I would start a thread to discuss the Obscure Object and the relationship that Calliope/Cal had with her. She seemed like an interesting character that had a profound influence on Calliope and her adolescence. In spite of the fact that Eugenides only named her the Obscure Object (Calliope/Cal said to protect this fictitious person), this character was very well defined in the novel.

What was your impression of this character, what was the impact this character had upon Cal/Calliope and what if any relationship did this character have in regards to the novel's plot development and/or key themes? Did the Obscure Object benefit in any way; why or why not?


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Paul_Hochman
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Re: The Obscure Object

Your comment on duality is too true and really applies to the whole of the book as well as TOO.



CallMeLeo wrote:
I think TOO is a combination of girlfriend and love interest for Cal/Calliope. The fact that Cal finds both in one person mirrors his own duality. He responds to her as a male and female. And like any other teenage he finds an instrument to explore his sexuality. That Calliope never questions his/her potential lesbianism is interesting, but measured against love, attraction, and acceptance perhaps it isn't as important.



bentley wrote:
Thought that I would start a thread to discuss the Obscure Object and the relationship that Calliope/Cal had with her. She seemed like an interesting character that had a profound influence on Calliope and her adolescence. In spite of the fact that Eugenides only named her the Obscure Object (Calliope/Cal said to protect this fictitious person), this character was very well defined in the novel.

What was your impression of this character, what was the impact this character had upon Cal/Calliope and what if any relationship did this character have in regards to the novel's plot development and/or key themes? Did the Obscure Object benefit in any way; why or why not?





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buddha_girl_17
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Re: The Obscure Object



CallMeLeo wrote:
I think TOO is a combination of girlfriend and love interest for Cal/Calliope. The fact that Cal finds both in one person mirrors his own duality. He responds to her as a male and female. And like any other teenage he finds an instrument to explore his sexuality. That Calliope never questions his/her potential lesbianism is interesting, but measured against love, attraction, and acceptance perhaps it isn't as important.




yeah, but maybe the potential lesbianism never crossed her mind. she was so in love with the Object that everything else was blocked out. and yet, i think calliope knew, somewhere deep down that she was a he. it never came to the surface until later, but i think deep down Cal was waiting...
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bentley
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Re: The Obscure Object



buddha_girl_17 wrote:


CallMeLeo wrote:
I think TOO is a combination of girlfriend and love interest for Cal/Calliope. The fact that Cal finds both in one person mirrors his own duality. He responds to her as a male and female. And like any other teenage he finds an instrument to explore his sexuality. That Calliope never questions his/her potential lesbianism is interesting, but measured against love, attraction, and acceptance perhaps it isn't as important.




yeah, but maybe the potential lesbianism never crossed her mind. she was so in love with the Object that everything else was blocked out. and yet, i think calliope knew, somewhere deep down that she was a he. it never came to the surface until later, but i think deep down Cal was waiting...





Yes, I agree..Calliope knew she wasn't right in her skin. Yes, and she did not want to take any wrong steps; the report convinced her that she was a he and that explained her feelings and proclivities. If she was really a male, then it really wasn't lesbianism in her mind.
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Re: The Obscure Object

yes!! exactly. thank you.
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marcialou
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Re: The Obscure Object

I think Calliope/Cal was more confused than anything else. He didn't understand he ws male. He accepted that he was female, at least superficially. He even had an explanation for his facial hair. He had these inexplicable sexuual feelings that he acted on without really be able to understand the context for them.

Like many teenagers he explored. Exploration for teenagers sametimes means same sex exploration, even when they are not really gay (Cal was not.) I think Calliope just acted, and like many teenagers, didn't think about the meaning of her acts.

Having sex with TOO's brother was interesting on two levels: on the hand it is so typical of many young girls' first sexual experiences, especially when partnered with an inexperienced boy, by it's eliciting no real sexual response from "her"; on the other hand, "she" being, in reality, a heterosexual "he," couldn't really be expected to respond sexually to a boy.

Cal experienced something rare: living both female and male lives. One might expect that his life was the richer for it, although I think it continued to cause problems for him as he was never anatomically quite normal. Another interpration is that he never experienced either maleness or femaleness in a completely normal way, and that to an extent, he was always an outsider.

Marcia
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: The Obscure Object

Exactly. Cal is the very definition of "outsider".



marcialou wrote:
I think Calliope/Cal was more confused than anything else. He didn't understand he ws male. He accepted that he was female, at least superficially. He even had an explanation for his facial hair. He had these inexplicable sexuual feelings that he acted on without really be able to understand the context for them.

Like many teenagers he explored. Exploration for teenagers sametimes means same sex exploration, even when they are not really gay (Cal was not.) I think Calliope just acted, and like many teenagers, didn't think about the meaning of her acts.

Having sex with TOO's brother was interesting on two levels: on the hand it is so typical of many young girls' first sexual experiences, especially when partnered with an inexperienced boy, by it's eliciting no real sexual response from "her"; on the other hand, "she" being, in reality, a heterosexual "he," couldn't really be expected to respond sexually to a boy.

Cal experienced something rare: living both female and male lives. One might expect that his life was the richer for it, although I think it continued to cause problems for him as he was never anatomically quite normal. Another interpration is that he never experienced either maleness or femaleness in a completely normal way, and that to an extent, he was always an outsider.

Marcia


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Re: The Obscure Object

agreed! and yet, people in general seem to identify with outsiders, even if they aren't one themselves. how can this be?
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marcialou
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Re: The Obscure Object



buddha_girl_17 wrote:
agreed! and yet, people in general seem to identify with outsiders, even if they aren't one themselves. how can this be?




Nobody understands us as well as we think we understand ourselves. Nobody understands us as well as we want to be understood. Everybody is truly an outsider at some time in their lives and everybody has paranoid moments when we think people are critical of them when they are not. Hence most of us identify with literary outsiders, if not those in real life, whom we truly don't understand and rarely admit are anything like ourselves.

Marcia
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: The Obscure Object

Great points here. I also think one can identify or even envy an outsider for their apparent braveness. Here's a few outsiders that come to my mind who pushed the bounds of the social/political norm:

Jerry Garcia
Truman Capote
The Beat Generation
Arthur Rimbaud

Can you all name a few?




marcialou wrote:


buddha_girl_17 wrote:
agreed! and yet, people in general seem to identify with outsiders, even if they aren't one themselves. how can this be?




Nobody understands us as well as we think we understand ourselves. Nobody understands us as well as we want to be understood. Everybody is truly an outsider at some time in their lives and everybody has paranoid moments when we think people are critical of them when they are not. Hence most of us identify with literary outsiders, if not those in real life, whom we truly don't understand and rarely admit are anything like ourselves.

Marcia


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bentley
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Re: The Obscure Object



PaulH wrote:
Great points here. I also think one can identify or even envy an outsider for their apparent braveness. Here's a few outsiders that come to my mind who pushed the bounds of the social/political norm:

Jerry Garcia
Truman Capote
The Beat Generation
Arthur Rimbaud

Can you all name a few?




marcialou wrote:


buddha_girl_17 wrote:
agreed! and yet, people in general seem to identify with outsiders, even if they aren't one themselves. how can this be?




Nobody understands us as well as we think we understand ourselves. Nobody understands us as well as we want to be understood. Everybody is truly an outsider at some time in their lives and everybody has paranoid moments when we think people are critical of them when they are not. Hence most of us identify with literary outsiders, if not those in real life, whom we truly don't understand and rarely admit are anything like ourselves.

Marcia







Excellent point, Paul and examples.
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marcialou
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Re: The Obscure Object

I'm going to play devil's advocate here and suggest that to varying degrees, the people Paul mentions are innovators more than/as well as outcasts. Jerry Garcia seemed wierd to some, but he had a huge following and influenced the music of others. That's not the hallmark of a true outcast. Truman Capote may have been an outcast in some circles or at some times of his life, but he was a noted writer and well accepted among other artists.

A better example of an outcast might be the kids who did the Columbine killings, plus all the alienated kids who appear like them and are being singled out by their communities as potential killers. A literary example of an outcast is Huckleberry Finn. I belong to a folk dance community that by in large is very accepting. Never-the-less, my group kicked out a member who was just to weird to be around. She was an outcast. Maybe Lenny Bruce was an outcast, but he had a small(maybe not so small) following and was an innovator as well.

Marcia
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: The Obscure Object

I can see your point, Marcia, but to a certain degree the people I cited were outside the fringe and who in their own right turned their outsider status into a positive attribute for themselves.

Can you picture more of an outsider than Truman Capote in Monroeville, Alabama?



marcialou wrote:
I'm going to play devil's advocate here and suggest that to varying degrees, the people Paul mentions are innovators more than/as well as outcasts. Jerry Garcia seemed wierd to some, but he had a huge following and influenced the music of others. That's not the hallmark of a true outcast. Truman Capote may have been an outcast in some circles or at some times of his life, but he was a noted writer and well accepted among other artists.

A better example of an outcast might be the kids who did the Columbine killings, plus all the alienated kids who appear like them and are being singled out by their communities as potential killers. A literary example of an outcast is Huckleberry Finn. I belong to a folk dance community that by in large is very accepting. Never-the-less, my group kicked out a member who was just to weird to be around. She was an outcast. Maybe Lenny Bruce was an outcast, but he had a small(maybe not so small) following and was an innovator as well.

Marcia


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bentley
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Re: The Obscure Object


PaulH wrote:
I can see your point, Marcia, but to a certain degree the people I cited were outside the fringe and who in their own right turned their outsider status into a positive attribute for themselves.

Can you picture more of an outsider than Truman Capote in Monroeville, Alabama?



marcialou wrote:
I'm going to play devil's advocate here and suggest that to varying degrees, the people Paul mentions are innovators more than/as well as outcasts. Jerry Garcia seemed weird to some, but he had a huge following and influenced the music of others. That's not the hallmark of a true outcast. Truman Capote may have been an outcast in some circles or at some times of his life, but he was a noted writer and well accepted among other artists.

A better example of an outcast might be the kids who did the Columbine killings, plus all the alienated kids who appear like them and are being singled out by their communities as potential killers. A literary example of an outcast is Huckleberry Finn. I belong to a folk dance community that by in large is very accepting. Never-the-less, my group kicked out a member who was just to weird to be around. She was an outcast. Maybe Lenny Bruce was an outcast, but he had a small(maybe not so small) following and was an innovator as well.

Marcia







Getting back to Calliope/Cal or even the Obscure Object..I think I see them differently than as an outcast outsider that is so weird nobody wants to be around them (like Marcia's folk dance example). In fact, Calliope/Cal was loved in fact by family and the friends that she did have and did have others who thought highly of her/him like some of the faculty etc. The outsider feeling was coming from within Calliope/Cal because I think she felt like an outsider to her own skin/gender and did not understand her genetic tendencies. I don't necessarily see a person with the problem that Calliope had or even the Colby (Maine Professor) as making them a perceived weirdo who has no relationships or poor relationships and stands alone.

James (the Colby professor) had many friends and was an esteemed faculty member and beloved father and husband yet felt like an outsider to his gender and the face that he was showing to the world. He made the change to Jenny and still is esteemed and no longer feels like an outsider to himself now that he is a woman; but now he is another kind of outsider; in the husband role which he will never have again or in a daddy role. Now he is known as Maddy and his wife is a special best friend who he loves; now that he is Jenny. And now he (James) now Jenny does have some attraction towards men.

I think that Paul's examples showed outcasts/outsiders of a different sort; yet still viable in each of his/her own way. The fact that all of them in their own way capitalized and/or overcame their stigma (real or imagined) speaks highly of each of them and their specific gifts or talents. The gifts and talents were always still there whether it be a Truman Capote, a Calliope/Cal, a male or a female Colby professor who is beloved by students and faculty...what they really are (their core) was solid and exhibited either uncontested brilliance/talent and/or goodness.

I don't see mentally unstable as the descriptor that I would use primarily for any of them although one can see excessive behavior or extremes in some or a few of them.

Just an opinion.

Bentley
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: The Obscure Object

True. I was using the outsider factor in a more general way. If I were to cite a more streamlined example of an outsider achieving somewhat mainstream status, I'd cite Richard Raskind, who in turn became, Renee Richards the professional tennis player (see link)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renee_Richards




bentley wrote:

PaulH wrote:
I can see your point, Marcia, but to a certain degree the people I cited were outside the fringe and who in their own right turned their outsider status into a positive attribute for themselves.

Can you picture more of an outsider than Truman Capote in Monroeville, Alabama?



marcialou wrote:
I'm going to play devil's advocate here and suggest that to varying degrees, the people Paul mentions are innovators more than/as well as outcasts. Jerry Garcia seemed weird to some, but he had a huge following and influenced the music of others. That's not the hallmark of a true outcast. Truman Capote may have been an outcast in some circles or at some times of his life, but he was a noted writer and well accepted among other artists.

A better example of an outcast might be the kids who did the Columbine killings, plus all the alienated kids who appear like them and are being singled out by their communities as potential killers. A literary example of an outcast is Huckleberry Finn. I belong to a folk dance community that by in large is very accepting. Never-the-less, my group kicked out a member who was just to weird to be around. She was an outcast. Maybe Lenny Bruce was an outcast, but he had a small(maybe not so small) following and was an innovator as well.

Marcia







Getting back to Calliope/Cal or even the Obscure Object..I think I see them differently than as an outcast outsider that is so weird nobody wants to be around them (like Marcia's folk dance example). In fact, Calliope/Cal was loved in fact by family and the friends that she did have and did have others who thought highly of her/him like some of the faculty etc. The outsider feeling was coming from within Calliope/Cal because I think she felt like an outsider to her own skin/gender and did not understand her genetic tendencies. I don't necessarily see a person with the problem that Calliope had or even the Colby (Maine Professor) as making them a perceived weirdo who has no relationships or poor relationships and stands alone.

James (the Colby professor) had many friends and was an esteemed faculty member and beloved father and husband yet felt like an outsider to his gender and the face that he was showing to the world. He made the change to Jenny and still is esteemed and no longer feels like an outsider to himself now that he is a woman; but now he is another kind of outsider; in the husband role which he will never have again or in a daddy role. Now he is known as Maddy and his wife is a special best friend who he loves; now that he is Jenny. And now he (James) now Jenny does have some attraction towards men.

I think that Paul's examples showed outcasts/outsiders of a different sort; yet still viable in each of his/her own way. The fact that all of them in their own way capitalized and/or overcame their stigma (real or imagined) speaks highly of each of them and their specific gifts or talents. The gifts and talents were always still there whether it be a Truman Capote, a Calliope/Cal, a male or a female Colby professor who is beloved by students and faculty...what they really are (their core) was solid and exhibited either uncontested brilliance/talent and/or goodness.

I don't see mentally unstable as the descriptor that I would use primarily for any of them although one can see excessive behavior or extremes in some or a few of them.

Just an opinion.

Bentley


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marcialou
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Re: The Obscure Object

[ Edited ]
I think it's my mistake for confusing an outcast with an outsider. The original word we used was outsider, which does not imply being shunned like an outcast. So I agree with both of you. Truman Capote certainly must have been an outsider, if not to some degree an outcast, in Monroeville Alabama.

Lots of us are outsiders in one way or another. Members of racial, religious, and sexual minorities, even when they are 99% integrated into the larger society, are outsiders on some occasions. This doesn't make us outcasts. Cal was an outsider not an outcast.

Furthermore, it's not surprising that outsiders should often be innovators and artists. It takes an outsider to see things differently from more conventional insiders.

Sorry. I thought I was being clever, but I wasn't. I hope the conversation was at least a little interesting.

Marcia

Message Edited by marcialou on 07-17-2007 05:23 PM
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Paul_Hochman
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Re: The Obscure Object

No need for apologies, Marcia, and your point is well taken. We're all certainly outsiders to one degree or another!



marcialou wrote:
I think it's my mistake for confusing an outcast with an outsider. The original word we used was outsider, which does not imply being shunned like an outcast. So I agree with both of you. Truman Capote certainly must have been an outsider, if not to some degree an outcast, in Monroeville Alabama.

Lots of us are outsiders in one way or another. Members of racial, religious, and sexual minorities, even when they are 99% integrated into the larger society, are outsiders on some occasions. This doesn't make us outcasts. Cal was an outsider not an outcast.

Furthermore, it's not surprising that outsiders should often be innovators and artists. It takes an outsider to see things differently from more conventional insiders.

Sorry. I thought I was being clever, but I wasn't. I hope the conversation was at least a little interesting.

Marcia

Message Edited by marcialou on 07-17-2007 05:23 PM


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bentley
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Re: The Obscure Object



marcialou wrote:
I think it's my mistake for confusing an outcast with an outsider. The original word we used was outsider, which does not imply being shunned like an outcast. So I agree with both of you. Truman Capote certainly must have been an outsider, if not to some degree an outcast, in Monroeville Alabama.

Lots of us are outsiders in one way or another. Members of racial, religious, and sexual minorities, even when they are 99% integrated into the larger society, are outsiders on some occasions. This doesn't make us outcasts. Cal was an outsider not an outcast.

Furthermore, it's not surprising that outsiders should often be innovators and artists. It takes an outsider to see things differently from more conventional insiders.

Sorry. I thought I was being clever, but I wasn't. I hope the conversation was at least a little interesting.

Marcia

Message Edited by marcialou on 07-17-2007 05:23 PM




Very interesting Marcia and definitely no need for any apologies..but I think Paul has dated himself because I did not have a clue who Renee Richards was? (lol)

And that was interesting in of itself!

And mediocrity is always more of the same..so innovators and artists always stand out and may be standing on the fringes or ahead of the pack. I guess being different is not bad depending upon what being the same as everyone else connotes?
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