Literature Study GuidesMiddlesexBook 4 Chapter 22 Summary

Middlesex | Study Guide

Jeffrey Eugenides

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Middlesex | Book 4, Chapter 22 : The Oracular Vulva | Summary



After the emergency room doctor notes something unusual about Callie's anatomy, Callie sees an endocrinologist who specializes in glands and hormones. Then the Stephanides go to New York to see Dr. Luce at the Sexual Disorders and Gender Identity Clinic at New York Hospital. Luce can tell from blood tests that Callie is genetically male. However, Luce sticks to his earlier theories that have won him fame and judges Callie to be female.

Callie lies to Dr. Luce about her attraction to girls, to the Object in particular. She admits to having sex with Jerome. While Dr. Luce, over days and weeks is examining her, Callie is writing her "Psychological Narrative." It is filled with untruths; Callie writes in the way she believes she is expected to write. She transfers her feelings for the Object to Jerome, fictionalizes early sex play, and makes up crushes on boys. Luce is thrilled. He is interested in the "gender give aways" of Callie's prose—her flourishes point to femininity, her lack of linearity and girl's school style all feminine as well.


Kaspar Hauser, to whom Callie refers, was a German teenager who was reported to have been raised with no human interaction, in a dungeon. A film released in 1974 about the strange case is contemporaneous to the narrative of the novel.

The "Oracular Vulva" is the name of the book that Luce writes, and the column that he pens for Playboy. The irony of the chapter title is of course, that had Callie's vulva been prophetic, her life would have been inalterably different.

Dr. Luce, modeled after Dr. John Money, is a believer in the theory that nurture takes precedence over nature. He uses Callie to prove his point with no regard to the potential implications for Callie. Gender identity, according to Luce, is determined by a variety of structures.

Callie's original psychological narrative is filled with fiction, half-truths, and outright lies; her experience as the unreliable narrator that readers have gotten to know starts at 14. However, it is the first time her writing is encouraged.

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