English Blog

The beginning of a Transformation – book one March 23, 2010

Filed under: Middlesex — writing4english @ 8:40 AM

      When I first got the book, I didn’t even know what the book was about or even what to expect. The first line of the book read, “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974” (Eugenides 3). From just reading that first line, I could tell that the book was going to take me on a journey throughout this transformation from being a girl to a boy. I didn’t know how or what happened at this point in time, but I knew if I wanted to find out I had to keep reading. So, I did. The narrator, Calliope, explains how he was born a girl, but that isn’t who he is. He goes on to explain not only about himself, but also the generations of his family. There is a battle between culture and biology in this book. The first involves determining the sex of the baby. They used a cultural belief to predict what the sex of an unborn child in its mother’s womb will be. This was done by simply observing the way the spoon would spin over the pregnant mother’s belly. Calliope explains that until him, Desdemona, who is his grandmother, had a perfect record of twenty three correct guesses (Eugenides 5). There is always a 50/50 chance that this old wives tale will be right because the child can only be born one of two ways, a girl or a boy. Well typically this is correct, however in Calliope’s case; he was born a girl except for the fact that he had male hormones running through his body. So technically, Desdemona was correct about the physical sex of Calliope, but beyond the physical was the inner boy of Calliope, begging to come out. Back in the day before the technology of the sonogram was as advance as it is today, they used this spoon method. They didn’t have ultrasounds to see the genitals to determine the sex of the unborn child. It was until, between the mid 1960s and late 1970s that ultrasounds became advanced as such to depict this (http://www.ob-ultrasound.net/history2.html). They used a spoon as their predictor instead of using a biological or scientifically proven method. However, Milton did buy Tessie a special thermometer called a basal thermometer. A basal thermometer is more precise than a regular fever thermometer because it is an ultra sensitive thermometer that tracks your body’s minutest temperature shift (http://www.babyhopes.com/articles/basal-thermometer.html). Differences in temperature can represent things such as ovulation, conception, and after that changes in temperature can be indicators of if you are having a boy or a girl. This is more effective and a better way than hanging a spoon on a sting above the pregnant belly and noting which way it spins. This is no scientific proof behind this cultural old wives tale, but using a basal thermometer and recording your basal temperature has been a scientifically tested and proven.

      Another topic in the book that is debatable is the relationship between Desdemona and Lefty. They are sister and brother, with a relationship that has just too much love. Their parents have died and Desdemona was told by her mother to make sure that Lefty marries, but I don’t think their mother meant for them to marry each other. Lefty even tries to make the situation better by saying that she is only his sister, but that they are related and family shouldn’t marry each other period. Incest is generally described as forbidden sexual relations within the family (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Incest). They didn’t seem to think anything wrong with their relationship as more than just siblings, but yet they still decided to hide the fact that they were brother and sister, along with the fact that they even know each other, while on the boat.  So, then again they must have known that it was something wrong with the picture or they wouldn’t have had to do all that they did. They knew it would not be culturally or socially accepted. Incest is a cultural taboo. They were so concerned with how others would think of them and how society would label them instead of the real consequences of their actions of being lovers. They are partaking in incest. Siblings aren’t supposed to be together, married. They only worried about the acceptance of their relationship, but they failed to ignore the biological effects of incest. For example, if a brother and sister have sex and produce offspring, the infant would be more than likely be born, if at all, with some sort of chromosomal problems and/or defect, mental and/or physical. There is a higher chance for hereditary disorders. (http://www.faqs.org/health/topics/68/Incest.html). Recessive genes, which can have various genetic problems, appear more often in the offspring of procreative couplings whose members both have the same gene (http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Incest). Also if both brother and sister have some rare recessive gene and they produce offspring, those two recessive genes will come together in that offspring and they will be a carrier of that rare gene also. Siblings shouldn’t have that type of attraction to one another, but Desdemona and Lefty sure did. I personally think that the connection between the two of them had more to do with the lost of their parents and the feeling of closeness to one another was their response to the fact that they were all each other had now. Book one of the novel took off in a wild direction. I look forward to what book two has to bring.

I would like for this blog to be considered for use in final essay.

~ Arielle K.

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3 Responses to “The beginning of a Transformation – book one”

  1. Jake Morse Says:

    I like your post, but I feel that Lefty and Desdemona did know that their relationship wasn’t right and that’s why they tried to convince themselves that they were different people. I also have this feeling because the narrator suggested that they were both a bit reluctant at times and in the beginning tried to convince themselves that it shouldn’t happen because it was wrong.

    – Jake Morse

  2. I like your post! I really like how you said that the novel is taking the reader on a journey because it gives us an idea about the characters themselves’ journies. It gives readers an idea of how they feel and it is our job to try and understand their point of few even though incest is scene to be morally wrong.

    Danielle Harteau

  3. Yes, you can definitely use this, Arielle. I’m glad you researched for this assignment as thoroughly as you did. I do want to bring up the same point Jake does: there is a lot of evidence in the book that they know there’s something wrong with their relationship. Desdemona particularly shows this. Not saying you’re wrong…you just need to back it up with evidence. Nice job.

    ~Jenna G.


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