Literature Study GuidesMiddlesexBook 3 Chapter 12 Summary

Middlesex | Study Guide

Jeffrey Eugenides

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Middlesex | Book 3, Chapter 12 : Home Movies | Summary

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Summary

Dr. Philobosian delivers Callie and pronounces that she is a beautiful baby girl. Cal observes that at the tender age of five minutes, the themes of his life, "chance and sex," have already "announced themselves." Lefty has a stroke on the day Callie is born and loses the ability to speak.

Callie has "an awkward, extravagant beauty." Desdemona convinces a reluctant Milton to have Callie baptized. At the baptism, Callie pees all over Father Mike. Tessie is embarrassed, Desdemona horrified, but no one stops to think about the engineering.

Time passes. Milton takes home movies showing Callie with her baby doll. He is no longer making a profit at the diner as the neighborhood around the diner changes. The Zebra Room is worth less than it was in 1933, and Milton has waited too long to sell.

At the diner, Callie meets a law student who is a black man, Marius Wyxzewixard Challouehliczilczese Grimes. Her father forbids her to talk to him. Marius opens Callie's eyes to her father's racist behavior. Milton catches Callie talking to Marius and becomes angry, warning her to "stay away from people like that."

Analysis

Cal describes his grandmother's feelings at the time of Lefty's stroke as the "happiness that attends disaster." For the first time, she has nothing to worry about—the worst has happened. Her strange elation is short lived—Lefty's heart starts beating and he lives. The momentary elation in doom follows Cal through the narrative.

Cal uses home movies of his family to tell his story. It is a new way of spinning his narrative. The reader is invited to see what is going on, not in Cal's imagination, but on the screen. Although he provides commentary, the home movies, once ascribed to film, are immutable, like the print of a book. They can be rewatched and reinterpreted, but they remain the same, regardless of the viewer. The same home movies are used by Dr. Luce to prove Cal's innate femininity. The bright lights Milton uses to film the home movies are too much for Tessie—like Cal she prefers people watching to being watched.

Milton stops taking home movies when Callie is around seven, as he becomes more distracted by his business losses and the changing landscape of Detroit. Cal goes back to creating images with words.

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