Literature Study GuidesMiddlesexBook 1 Chapter 2 Summary

Middlesex | Study Guide

Jeffrey Eugenides

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Middlesex | Book 1, Chapter 2 : Matchmaking | Summary



Cal's narrative moves back in time to 1922, when a young Desdemona is living in her village alone with her brother, Lefty, after the deaths of their parents. After their emancipation from Turkish rule, Desdemona feels increasingly alienated from Lefty as he trades his village clothes for a cosmopolitan suit, begins to learn French, sings English songs, and stays out all night. Lefty goes to Bursa, the nearest town, sells the silkworm cocoons that Desdemona cultivates, gambles, and looks for women. Secretly, it is Desdemona whom Lefty wants. He tries to pray away his feelings and distracts himself with gambling.

Meanwhile, Mustafa Kemal, the Turkish military leader, plans to recapture Bursa from the Greek troops.

Desdemona believes Lefty needs a wife, but there are only two marriageable women in Bithynios, their small village. Lefty wants to marry Desdemona–"joking but not joking." Suddenly, they hear explosions. Bursa is under attack, and the Greek army is in full retreat.


Cal's musings on fate are brought in mid-narrative, set off by ellipses. They signal that he is about to interrupt himself for an aside or commentary. These interruptions give the narration an intimate feel. He is talking directly to the readers, although he never uses the second person.

"Maybe the gene contained an override," he tells readers. It is here that Cal suggests that not only are genetics destiny, but it is the genes themselves that force the combinations of people that will make them manifest. Lefty and Desdemona perhaps had no choice in their later incest. Rather, the chromosomes that they carried forced them together so that the mutated chromosome would ultimately become the one expressed.

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