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kgbrown's picture

Guilt in Middlesex

I think that one of the major threads of Middlesex is the feeling of guilt. Perhaps this is because of the unorthodox and somewhat taboo situations that arise in the novel, but I also think that religion, and specifically in this case, Greek Orthodox, plays a major role in causing the characters to become guilt-ridden individuals. The first example of course is Desdemona, who, because of her incestuous relationship with her brother, believes that every negative event is a direct result of her "sin." When Milton is sent off to war, Desdemona blames her marriage and she prays. When Milton is saved from the war, it is because her prayers were answered. However, this happy outcome does result in Milton and Tessie marrying, something that Desdemona has been working against. Perhaps the guilt is also genetic because after her Grandfather undergoes another stroke in the bathhouse, because she believes that she and Clementine have caused her grandfather's downfall: "...a seven-year-old girl is also praying for forgiveness, because it was clear to me that I was responsible. It was what I did... what Lefty saw... And I am promising never to do anything like that again..." (267). As was the result with her grandmother, Like her granddaughter, Desdemona feels guilty for all of her actions: "There were times when the guilt she felt for marrying Lefty conflicted with the guilt she felt for not satisfying him" (134). Clearly, the ideas of guilt, sex, and satisfaction are all linter-inked in the spiderweb of this story. Though Callie's "improper" sexual act with Clementine did not cause her grandfather's stroke, ultimately, Desdemona and Lefty's insestuous relationship leads to an improbable and, perhaps, negative result: the intersex of Cal. In this instance, not even prayer, with its mixed results, can help to process the guilt.

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