Chapter 24 Summary

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Editor's Note: To avoid confusion, the narrator and main character in Middlesex is referred to by the pronoun "he" in chapter summaries 24-28.

In the twenty-fourth chapter, “Go West, Young Man,” Cal begins his journey away from home. He buys a suit from the Salvation Army and has his hair cut. He practices walking like a man, which, Cal concludes, requires the shoulders to sway rather than the hips. Cal only has so much money, but he is determined to go West. He does not have enough money to travel by bus to California, so he decides to start hitchhiking. As he stands on the road with his thumb in the air, Cal realizes that he had

miscalculated with Luce. I thought that after talking to me he would decide that I was normal and leave me alone. But I was beginning to understand something about normality. Normality wasn’t normal. It couldn’t be. If normality were normality, everybody could leave it alone. They could sit back and let normality manifest itself. But people—and especially doctors—had doubts about normality. They weren’t sure normality was up to the job. And so they felt inclined to give it a boost.

Cal has complex feelings toward Dr. Luce, but she feels no resentment toward her parents. Nevertheless, it takes little more than the thought of what her classmates might say to urge her on her journey.

At night, Cal sleeps in hotels. He spends his time doing push-ups and sit-ups, feeling as though he is finally freed from expectations that came along with his body when he was a woman. Cal is struck by how differently men and women view their bodies. In the men’s bathrooms, which are shockingly dirty compared to women's, men may be shameless while locked away in their stalls, but in front of their urinals they “look straight ahead like horses with blinders.” Cal realizes that he is leaving behind a

shared biology. Women know what it means to have a body. They understand its difficulties and its frailties, it glories and pleasures. Men think their bodies are theirs alone. They tend them in private, even in public.

Though Cal initially feels uneasy in the men’s room, he notices that no one ever objects to his presence there.

During the day, he continues to hitchhike. One elderly couple, Myron and Sylvia, are traveling across America in an RV and pick him up. When they talk to Cal, he feels “male-identified” for the first time: he feels that they are treating him like a son. One trucker explains that he wants Cal to keep him awake, and when Cal asks what they should talk about, he replies, “Indians!”

As Cal’s journey continues, he continues to consider what it means to be a man. Another trucker, Ben Scheer, impresses Cal because he knows about existentialism and Andy Warhol. Before he took to the road, Ben had lived in New York, where Cal would like to live one day. Cal finds himself thinking that “Scheer was the kind of man I would like to be myself.” As they continue to travel, Ben buys Cal a lot of drinks and takes him out for supper. Another man, wearing a Hawaiian shirt notices them and smiles. After supper, they continue to drink until they check in at a motel. Ben drunkenly tries to get Cal to sleep with him, but Cal refuses. When Cal wakes up, Ben is behind him in bed. Cal showers quickly and leaves while Ben lies in bed, passed out.

Back on the road, the man in the Hawaiian shirt offers Cal a ride. His smile looks “like something bursting,” and though Cal hesitates, he has few options. He gets in.

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Chapter 23 Summary


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