Literature Study GuidesMiddlesexBook 4 Chapter 23 Summary

Middlesex | Study Guide

Jeffrey Eugenides

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Middlesex | Book 4, Chapter 23 : Looking Myself Up in Webster's | Summary



Dr. Luce tells Milton and Tessie that Callie's interests, gestures, and psychosexual makeup are female, and thus, Callie is female. Tessie is devastated, but for Milton the decision is easy. Callie will be in the hospital overnight, she'll come home a girl, and no one will ever know.

Callie looks up the words that Luce used about gender, and following the dictionary trail from hypospadias to eunuch and hermaphrodite, she lands on monster.

Callie reads in her file that she is a genetic male and that the feminizing surgery will potentially result in loss of sexual pleasure. She packs a suitcase, takes the cash she can find, and runs away. She leaves a note that Dr. Luce is a liar and that she is not a girl.


Learning what she is, in the cold reading room of the New York Public Library, surrounded by strangers, is a climactic moment for Callie. She is truly terrified of herself and who she is growing into.

Callie believes she is a monster, which explains so much to Callie: her mother's tears, the false cheer of her father, the furtive trip to New York. Young Callie feels humbled by the fact that her parents clearly know she is a monster, yet they continue to love her. Cal, writing his autobiography as an adult, still believes himself a monster. He understands his condition, but distances himself from people because of it, like a sapient monster, hiding himself in a cave—best not to disturb the humans.

Callie signs her name Callie in her note to her parents—the last time she will use that name, the last time she'll be her parent's daughter. She is so clear in her intentions, so sure that she is a boy, that it is clear that even when she didn't know anything, Callie knew something.

Callie's last act as a daughter, writing a note, is both an act of love and an act of defiance.

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