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The Marriage Plot
Middlesex

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey EugenidesBook Cover of The Marriage Plot by Jffrey Eugenides

Does modern love have any need for romance, much less marriage? For Madeleine Hanna, an English major writing a senior thesis with the marriage plot as the centerpiece, the question looms large. In Madeleine's favorite novels, marriage is the plot. But in the story line of her own life, sexual liberation and career goals have made hopeless romantics obsolete --- even while two thoroughly postmodern guys are vying for her affection. After all, it's the 1980s: she's supposed to be reaping the rewards of feminism. As Madeleine's love triangle unfolds in the wake of college graduation, Jeffrey Eugenides brings us an exuberant portrait of contemporary relationships and the realities that sometimes drive them wildly off course. Released from the Ivy League, Madeleine and her suitors Leonard Bankhead (whom she met in a semiotics seminar) and Mitchell Grammaticus (the toga-less interloper at a freshman party in her dorm) dive into the world of adulthood. While Madeleine follows Leonard to Cape Cod, where he's accepted a biology fellowship, Mitchell travels the globe to get Madeleine out of his mind, probing the meaning of life and the existence of God throughout his sojourns. Offering a wholly new approach to the classic love story, this is an intimate meditation on the quests --- romantic and otherwise --- that confound and propel us. The questions and discussion topics that follow are designed to enhance your reading of The Marriage Plot. We hope they will enrich your experience as you explore this enthralling novel of life and literature. Read the full review at OurBookClub

Want more information about Jeffrey Eugenides:-

A Conversation with Jeffrey Eugenides - Oprah.

Questions for Jeffrey Eugenides - Slate.

OurBookClub Discussion Questions for The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

1. The opening scene features a litany of the books Madeleine loves. What were your first impressions of her, based on her library? How are her beliefs about love transformed throughout the novel?
2. When Phyllida fell in love with Alton, she gave up her dream of becoming an actress in Hollywood. What sustains the Hannas' marriage despite this sacrifice? How are Alwyn and Madeleine influenced by their parents' marriage? Is Alwyn's marriage to Blake a bad one
3. Why is Madeleine more attracted to Leonard than to Mitchell? As she copes with Leonard's instability and her feelings of guilt, how does mental illness shape the relationship?
4. What does Mitchell hope to discover as a student of religion? What role does religion play in his quest to be loved? Is his ideal --- a religion devoid of myth and artificial social structures --- attainable?
5. What recurring themes did you detect in Mitchell's trip overseas as he tries to manage his money, his love life, and Larry? Does he return to America a stronger, changed person or an amplified version of his college self?
6. What does Alwyn try to teach her little sister about being a woman by sending the Bachelorette's Survival Kit? What does the kit help a woman survive?
7. Madeleine's parents are affluent and have enough free time to stay very involved in her life. Does this liberate her, or does it give her less freedom than Leonard, who is often left to fend for himself?
8. Would you have said yes to Leonard's marriage proposal?

These questions are provided by the LitLovers.

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Middlesex by Jeffrey EugenidesBook Cover of The Middlesex by Jffrey Eugenides

Middlesex tells the breathtaking story of Calliope Stephanides, and three generations of the Greek-American Stephanides family, who travel from a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus in Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit, witnessing its glory days as the Motor City and the race riots of 1967 before moving out to the tree-lined streets of suburban Grosse Pointe, Michigan. To understand why Calliope is not like other girls, she has to uncover a guilty family secret, and the astonishing genetic history that turns Callie into Cal, one of the most audacious and wondrous narrators in contemporary fiction. Lyrical and thrilling, Middlesex is an exhilarating reinvention of the American epic. Read the full review at OurBookClub

OurBookClub Discussion Questions for The Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

1. Middlesex begins just before Calís birth in 1960, then moves backward in time to 1922. Cal is born at the beginning of Part 3, about halfway through the novel. Why did the author choose to structure the story in this way? How does this movement backward and forward in time reflect the larger themes of the work?
2. When Tessie and Milton decide to try to influence the sex of their baby, Desdemona disapproves. "God decides what baby is," she says. "Not you" (p. 13). What happens when characters in the novel challenge fate?
3. "To be honest, the amusement grounds should be closed at this hour, but, for my own purposes, tonight Electric Park is open all night, and the fog suddenly lifts, all so that my grandfather can look out the window and see a roller coaster streaking down the track. A moment of cheap symbolism only, and then I have to bow to the strict rules of realism, which is to say: they canít see a thing" (pp. 110Ė11). Occasionally, Cal interrupts his own narrative, calling attention to himself and the artifice inherent in his story. What purpose do these interruptions serve? Is Cal a reliable narrator?
4. "Iíve never had the right words to describe my life, and now that Iíve entered my story, I need them more than ever," Cal writes (p. 217). How does Cal narrate the events that take place before his birth? Does his perspective as a narrator change when he is recounting events that take place after he is born?
5. "All I know is this: despite my androgenized brain, thereís an innate feminine circularity in the story I have to tell" (p. 20). What does Cal mean by this? Is his manner of telling his story connected to the question of his gender? How?
6. How are Calís early sexual experiences similar to those of any adolescent? How are they different? Are the differences more significant than the similarities?
7. "Watching from the cab, Milton came face-to-face with the essence of tragedy, which is something determined before youíre born, something you canít escape or do anything about, no matter how hard you try" (p. 426). According to this definition, is Calís story a tragedy?
8. The final sentence of the novel reads: "I lost track after a while, happy to be home, weeping for my father, and thinking about what was next" (p. 529). What is next for Cal? Does the author give us reason to believe that Calís relationship with Julie will be successful?
9. What role does race play in the novel? How do the Detroit riots of 1967 affect the Stephanides family and Cal, specifically?
10. Middlesex is set against the backdrop of several historical events: the war between Greece and Turkey, the rise of the Nation of Islam, World War II, and the Detroit riots. How does history shape the lives of the characters in the novel?
11. How is Calís experience living within two genders similar to the immigrant experience of living within two cultures? How is it different?
12. What is Dr. Luceís role in the novel? Would you describe him as a villain?
13. How does Calís experience reflect on the "nature vs. nurture" debate about gender identity?
14. Why does Cal decide to live as a man rather than as a woman?

These questions are provided by the BookBrowse.

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