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Sarah Kaufman's picture

(Inconsistent?) Imagery in Middlesex

Something that stuck out to me in Middlesex was the use of the imagery of the "maze" to describe behaviors attributed to different genders. On the one hand, Cal describes his dating patterns as "wandering in the maze for these many years, shut away from sight. And from love too." This kind of maze, to me, meant a masculine retreat from intimacy with women because of insecurity with his body. However, turn the page three times, and you get Jimmy describing pregnant women as being "shut up in a maze," and Desdemona's actual pregnancy being described as that maze. What makes pregnancy full of "dark corridors" is the "bones of women who had passed this way before her." Therefore, her experience of the maze of pregnancy is a highly feminine one. Why does Eugenides describe behaviors that are exclusively and distinctly gendered in separate paragraphs with the same metaphor? Is it because he wants to blur the images we associate with different genders, thus bending the lines of the gender binary?

Add to this question the fact that the pregnancies of Desdemona and Lina were at first empowering "mazes." "Pregnancy humbled the husbands" because "they quickly recognized the minor role that nature had assigned them in the drama of reproduction."

It is possible that Jimmy's use of the term "maze" to describe pregnancy had good intentions because to "men" a maze meant a "retreat" from intimacy, or a positive, comfortable environment. However, to Desdemona, this maze made her feel like an "animal," and embarrassed.

Another thing I found interesting was the reverse Freudian situation of Lefty being jealous of his son because of his son's increased intimacy with his mother. If Eugenides is, in fact, going for a consistency of imagery with the "maze" being the symbol of a confused state of retreat from intimacy, then when Desdemona's retreat from intimacy is over, Lefty becomes outraged with jealousy and counterattacks with his "traditions" of sex segregation.


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