English Blog

In the Presence of Death… Grow a Beard April 6, 2010

Filed under: Middlesex — writing4english @ 11:03 AM


Middlesex has a way of making you wonder about what exactly Eugenides is talking about. He says things so precisely and by analyzing something he said, you can denote your own meaning that may be far from his or a tad bit close – but to have any understanding at all will suffice.

In Marriage on Ice in Book Three, Jimmy Zizmo passes away and Eugenides writes:

“Because a person should never show vanity in the presence of death, Lefty stopped shaving and by the day of the funeral had grown nearly a full beard” (Eugenides 126).

I can pick apart this quote in so many ways and it confuses me slightly. It makes me think of Cal’s transition from female to male. They didn’t describe the transition thoroughly in the book yet, but it actually gives me motivation to read on. He no longer represented himself as female and it was basically the death of Calliope and the birth of Cal. It makes me wonder if he was vain once he was in tune with his male side as far as appearance goes and if he had any remorse for the person he once was. I know that further on in the book he states his insecurity with women and basically gets his pride back by  saying “leaving and never calling again – just like a guy.” Perhaps in the presence of Calliopes death, he grew a beard like Lefty did.

It almost seems impossible for Detroit to show vanity in the death of Motown and the amazing city it once was. It was once the fourth largest city and now the eleventh. Maybe if we had a good football team and perhaps a good mayor we would have something to boast about. Detroit has been pretty humble and has been “growing beards” – some of which have no option of being cut due to the economic downfall… it’s just too expensive. Perhaps the beards are the last thing Detroiter’s are worried about. They have homes being foreclosed and gangs controlling the area. Detroit is waiting for a new birth, just as Cal was. Until then, we do like Lefty did and perhaps what Cal did and hold off on narcissism in the presence of a loss.

-Lori E. Allan - (may like to use in final essay)

5 Responses to “In the Presence of Death… Grow a Beard”

  1. maybe we do just need something to spark a new beginning here in detroit. it doesnt seem like we are that far off from coming back to what the city used to be.

    tyler staruch

  2. I like the different comparisons that you make between the city and the characters within the novel. Also, I believe that what you said is true but change is necessary today.

    Raymond L.

  3. Great quote choice. I havent seen any vanity in the downfall of Detroit. There seems to be no pride in what it once was or could be. Its all just been given up on by everyone.

    Nick Vecellio

  4. You definitely have something here, Lori. Good work. If you wanted to, this also has the makings of a great final essay topic, too. You could compare the characters to Detroit (could work for topic #2 or 3). In Book 3, there is a lot written about Detroit’s condition and death, in connection with hair and Cal’s ongoing transformation. Milton, for example, grows a beard. Cal links this to the neglected lawns of Detroit. Keep your eyes peeled for this. Very nice job.

    ~Jenna G.

  5. During the playoffs the Red Wings don’t shave their beards and we have made it to the playoff since 1991! In any city not all their sports teams are good. Our hockey is amazing despite the lack of our football team.


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