What is the function and importance of hybridism in Middlesex?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is a sense in which hybridity is the governing concept of this novel that is both touching and amusing. On the one hand, Eugenides has deliberately crafted a novel that is hybrid in its style. It is both a contemporary bildungsroman of one person finding their place in society and reaching a level of happiness whilst also deliberately combining elements of the Homeric epic genre, which cement the links between Calliope and her ancient Greek heritage, and also allow Cal to introduce a mocking tone to his/her narration:

Sing now, O Muse, of the recessive mutation on my fifth chromosome! Sing how it bloomed two and a half centuries ago on the slopes of Mount Olympus, while the goats bleated and the olives dropped. 

Cal deliberately parodies the Homeric opening of such epic classics as the Iliad and The Odyssey here, both to inject wry humour into the narration but also to indicate the deliberate blurring of genre that Eugenides wanted to create. This deliberate hybridisation stylistically is something that is immensely important to the novel, as it is simultaneously a number of different things at the same time. Just as its genre falls into several camps, so to does Cal's identity and sexuality, and it is therefore highly ironic that in her school production of Antigone, Cal is chosen to play the part of Tiersias, the famous seer who changed gender, and like Cal, was "first one thing, then another." Hybridisation is therefore so important because not only does it explain what Eugenides does stylistically in this novel, but it also acts as an important symbol of Cal and the struggle that the narrator faces as s/he comes to terms with his/her "middle sex," which both acts as the title of the novel and the geographical location where the narrator significantly lives.

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