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Middlesex | Quotes


I was born twice, first as a baby girl ... and then again as a teenage boy.

Cal Stephanides, Book 1, Chapter 1

Cal sets the plot for the narrative in its entirety in the first sentence of the book. Middlesex, reduced to one sentence, would be this.


Of course, a narrator in my position ... can't be entirely sure about any of this.

Cal Stephanides, Book 1, Chapter 1

Cal sets the tone for the whole book here. He states that he was present, if prefetal, at the moments he describes. He admits that a narrator such as himself may not be entirely "truthful," which makes the story more mythological and allegorical than a first-person narration of a family history.


Lefty was one year younger than Desdemona ... she often wondered how she'd survived ... without him.

Cal Stephanides, Book 1, Chapter 2

Although ultimately they grow cold to each other, Lefty and Desdemona were fundamental to each other's being. Desdemona cannot imagine spending even 12 months without her brother.


Either way ... great discoveries ... are always windfalls. They happen to people loafing under trees.

Cal Stephanides, Book 1, Chapter 4

There is an element of fate or "lottery" in everything. The discoveries of silk and gravity were precipitated by an event that could neither be controlled for or by human beings.


Detroit ... was an American city and therefore dedicated to money ... design had given way to expediency.

Cal Stephanides, Book 2, Chapter 5

Cal is very clear that the American preoccupation with money is disturbing to him.


Historical fact: people stopped being human in 1913.

Cal Stephanides, Book 2, Chapter 5

Cal is referring to humans turning into machines in the pursuit of manufacturing and commerce. The dehumanization theme continues, in the words of Fard Muhammad, in the treatment of riots by the federal government and in the suggestion that a child's gender can be manipulated to suit medical science (and her parents).


Wierzbicki reams a bearing ... Stephanides grinds a bearing . O'Malley attaches a bearing to a camshaft.

Cal Stephanides, Book 2, Chapter 5

This sentence is repeated over and over to mimic the monotony of the repetition that comes with having a single task on an assembly line.


The new country and its language have helped to push the past a little further behind.

Cal Stephanides, Book 2, Chapter 5

Lefty is able to use his new language and country as a disguise; he is no longer the man who married his sister, the boy from the village, or cocoon seller; he is an American in language and gesture.


She kept waiting ... fearing that the punishment ... was going to be taken out ... in the bodies of her children.

Cal Stephanides, Book 2, Chapter 8

The ultimate punishment for incest would be to hurt her innocent and beloved children. Desdemona is above all a mother.


That's how people live ... by telling stories ... That's how we understand who we are.

Father Mike, Book 2, Chapter 9

Cal may or may not have use for religion, and it is possible that Eugenides is equally as ambivalent. Father Mike, however, is a true believer and understands implicitly the need for narrative in religion. Fard does as well, as his sermons are stories.


My gay-dar went off completely. I'm always suspicious, being the last stop.

Julie Kikuchi, Book 2, Chapter 10

The contemporaneous language and the informality of this quote set it firmly in the present. Julie isn't given a lot to say; rather, she is described. This gives readers the sound of her voice.


In our family, the funeral meats have always furnished the wedding tables.

Cal Stephanides, Book 2, Chapter 10

Cal is commenting on the strange relationship between death and marriage in his family. Desdemona agrees to marry Lefty because she thinks they will die in Smyrna. Tessie receives her mother's permission to marry Milton because Desdemona expects Milton to die in World War II.


Already latent inside me ... was the ability to communicate between the genders ... in the stereoscope of both.

Cal Stephanides, Book 3, Chapter 14

Cal is beginning to show awareness of his "otherness." He is neither man nor woman but can see the world through both assignments.


Chekhov was right. If there's a gun on the wall, it has got to go off.

Cal Stephanides, Book 3, Chapter 21

Because Cal is partial to literature, he uses a literary allusion to discuss destiny. Chekhov stated that when an element is introduced in a play, by the end of the work it must be used. In this case the "gun on the wall" is Cal's internal sex organs. Someday that gun will go off, and his true gender will be discovered.


Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind.

Cal Stephanides, Book 4, Chapter 26

Cal spends the narrative musing on free will and destiny. Here, he comes out on the side of free will. Cal is suggesting that he exercised free will in deciding to be a boy; gender isn't only a matter of biology.

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