Literature Study GuidesMiddlesexBook 2 Chapter 10 Summary

Middlesex | Study Guide

Jeffrey Eugenides

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Middlesex | Book 2, Chapter 10 : News of the World | Summary

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Summary

Cal calls Julie for a second date and spontaneously gives her a kiss. She asks if he is gay: "My gay-dar went off completely. I'm always suspicious, being the last stop," she tells him, explaining that she has received attention from several closeted gay men, who try to date Asian women because their bodies tend to be more boyish.

Milton is stationed off the coast of San Diego as a member of the Amphibious Forces bound for storming beaches in the Far East. He realizes he made a mistake in joining the navy to get back at Tessie. The repetitive drills are exhausting and dangerous. Milton learns of an admittance exam to the Naval Academy in Annapolis and takes the exam.

Desdemona prays to St. Christopher to save her son, promising him that "Miltie" will fix the church in Bithynios: "I can also make him promise to put in the church new pews."

Tessie realizes she misses Milton and decides not to marry Mike. Desdemona, sure that Milton is doomed, gives Tessie her blessing to marry him.

Milton is given the job of signalman and feels sure he will die in the upcoming invasion; the average survival time of a signalman in battle being 38 seconds. His unit sets sail for the Pacific Theater. Suddenly, a bosun's chair picks Milton off the deck of the transport ship and whisks him through the air to a destroyer heading back to the mainland. Milton has gotten into the Naval Academy and heads for Annapolis. The narrator observes, "Every Greek drama needs a deus ex machina."

Tessie and Milton marry in June 1946. Father Mike is crushed but dances with Zoë at the wedding. Milton never gets to Bithynios to repair the church.

Analysis

Deus ex machina means "god from the machine." In Greek drama a god dangling over the stage would suddenly arrive to decide the outcome of the story. This phrase has come to mean a person or thing that arrives suddenly in a narrative to solve an apparently unsolvable difficulty. Eugenides uses the phrase both in its classic sense and its more modern literary sense. Milton is picked off the boat as he heads toward certain death by a bosun's chair—a hoist that is normally used to perform work high on the masts, but can also be used to transport a frightened seaman from one ship to another. It is the crane that would bring a god down from high into the action of a drama to move the narrative along.

Admission to Annapolis is the deus ex machina in a more modern literary sense. In this case it is the United States government or perhaps St. Christopher that swoops in, unannounced and without nuance, to change the course of the action. Had he not gained admission to the Naval Academy, Milton would have died. Signalmen, using a lantern, flash signals in Morse code to compatriots on the beach. As the narrator explains, "he would stand up in a boat, exposed to hostile fire, holding a bright light. For a little while at least."

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