Literature Study GuidesMiddlesexBook 3 Chapter 21 Summary

Middlesex | Study Guide

Jeffrey Eugenides

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Middlesex | Book 3, Chapter 21 : The Gun on the Wall | Summary



Callie rejects Jerome when he tries to have sex with her again, telling him she doesn't like him. However, Callie becomes intimate with the Object while the Object pretends to be asleep. One day, Jerome catches the two girls and shouts at Callie, "keep your hands off my sister." Angry, Callie charges Jerome, leading to a chase. Suddenly, Jerome stops and starts shouting. Callie cannot hear what he is saying, and then it is too late. She is hit by a tractor. She wakes up being transported to the hospital, her head on the Object's lap. Callie is examined by a doctor at the hospital.


Cal alludes to playwright Anton Chekhov's famous quotation, "If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don't put it there." In this case when the gun goes off, it blows everything Callie has known, heretofore, to pieces. Her relationship with the Object, with her parents, and with herself, have all been irremovably changed.

The chapter title, "The Gun on the Wall," also alludes to all the missteps that have led to this moment. The gun has never gone off, although it has had its chance; Milton keeps a gun under his bed, and Callie's parents have a gun on the wall of their vacation house. The gun is also an obvious allusion to Callie's emerging maleness. Sometimes a gun is just a gun, but sometimes a gun is a penis.

As in Chekhov, the gun going off is the climax of the story. Cal has "written" 21 chapters leading up to his discovery of himself. Callie's tractor accident initiates the gun going off. The actual discovery of undescended testes is the explosion.

In the denouement of the chapter, Cal remarks, "all the mute objects of my life seem to tell my story." Here, readers gain insight into his refusal to name the Obscure Object. Her namelessness renders her mute, and through her, he can tell his story.

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