Fate and Free Will

Cal questions the primacy of fate over free will as she examines her and her family's experiences. She begins with the silk worm analogy, tracing the thread to the past that has determined her hermaphroditism. "The thread," she insists, "began on a day two hundred and fifty years ago, when the biology gods, for their own amusement, monkeyed with a gene on a baby's fifth chromosome…. and my destiny fell into place."

James Wood, in his review of the novel for the New Republic, comments that "Eugenides wishes to use his three-generational structure to suggest something about fate, the bequeathments of genetics, and the possibility of revolt once fate has displayed its cards." Eugenides refuses to privilege one force over the other, insisting that both can affect human experience. Wood concludes, "the book clearly turns on this idea of destiny, and of destiny resisted, both by free will and by helpless action." While, for example, the damaged gene passed on by Desdemona and Lefty has left a clear mark on Cal, her grandparents had the freedom to choose to come to the United States, just as Cal chooses whether she will live as a man or a woman.

The tension between fate and free will also are evident in Cal's contradictory statements on the two forces. She claims at one point that tragedy "is something determined before you're born, something you can't escape or do anything about, no matter how hard you...

(The entire section is 437 words.)