HomeLiterature Study GuidesMiddlesexBook 3 Chapter 19 Summary

Middlesex | Study Guide

Jeffrey Eugenides

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Middlesex | Book 3, Chapter 19 : Tiresias in Love | Summary

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Summary

Tessie makes an appointment for Callie with a gynecologist. This fills Callie with dread.

The family is preparing for their summer trip to Turkey. Callie cares little for travel plans; she is secretly in love. The girls are still shaken by the death at school. In fact, another schoolmate of theirs has also recently died, drowning when her boyfriend, who was drunk, drove his car into the lake. He managed to swim to shore.

Callie and the Object begin to spend a good deal of time together. Mostly, they go to the Object's club to swim and lounge by the pool. The Object invites Callie to her family's summerhouse in Petoskey. Callie is going to Turkey, however, and has to decline the offer.

One afternoon at the Club, Callie meets Jerome, the Object's older brother. He has the Object's coloring, but his hair is dyed jet black. He has a penchant for horror movies and asks the girls to be in his latest movie, Vampires in Prep School. He has been kicked out of two boarding schools. He revels in teasing his sister.

The girls become increasingly intimate; Callie sleeps over frequently.

The dreaded doctor's appointment is looming. Callie starts going to church again with Tessie. Tessie prays for Chapter Eleven who has recently dropped out of school. Callie prays "to receive the womanly stigmata," and, one day in church, believes she has. The same day, the family vacation is called off after the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Analysis

Eugenides is judicious with his characters' names. For example, Lefty means freedom, and Calliope is the muse of epic poetry. Yet, like Chapter Eleven, the Obscure Object never gets an actual name, just a moniker that relates her to Callie. Cal says he needs to protect her identity, but that could easily be done by calling her Mary or Louise or Cricket. Rather, he as the author of his story, and Eugenides, as the author of the novel in which Cal writes, chooses to leave her nameless.

The Object is only important to the narrative as the object of Callie's sexual desire. She is the one person, other than Callie herself, who is responsible for Callie's discovery. Yet Callie says, "I didn't consider the Object's own motivations, her love vacuum."

Cal describes the things he owns, that bring him joy, in rather minute detail. The shoes he likes are handmade and look like dress shoes until you notice their Vibram soles. He also describes the Object very deliberately; her calves are freckled, her T-shirt says Lester Lanin (a jazz musician who would have been in his late 60s at the time of the narrative), and she smokes when she brushes her teeth. It is as if he owns the memory of this objectified girl; she has traveled with him through the years, been studied, perseverated upon, and recreated in minute detail. If he allows her personhood, he can't keep her in such close, finite conditions.

Tiresias is a blind seer who figures prominently in Greek dramas and mythology. As a punishment for striking some mating snakes, male Tiresias is turned into a woman. He lives as a woman for seven years, half the time that Callie lives as a woman. After the "curse" is reversed, he is further punished by Hera for suggesting that women get more pleasure from sex than men. She blinds him. The title of the chapter is a reference to Tiresias having both male and female lives and to Callie's burgeoning sexual awakening.

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