Middlesex Reading Questions
- Middlesex begins just before Cal's birth in 1960, then moves backward in time to 1922. Cal is born at the beginning of Part 3, about halfway through the novel. Why did the author choose to structure the story in this way? How does this movement backward and forward in time reflect the larger themes of the work?
- "I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever," Cal writes (p. 217). How does Cal narrate the events that take place before his birth? Does his perspective as a narrator change when he is recounting events that take place after he is born?
- "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?
- What role does race play in the novel? How do the Detroit riots of 1967 affect the Stephanides family and Cal, specifically?
- 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?
- Describe Middlesex. Does the house have a symbolic function in the novel?
- How is Cal's experience living within two genders similar to the immigrant experience of living within two cultures? How is it different?
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