Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Jeffrey  Eugenides

Victoria  Cloonan 
Chaos and Destruction Caused by Civil War in Greece

Identity Crisis in the Works of Jeffrey Eugenides

The legacy of World War II, the dynamics of the emerging Cold War, and the domestic tradition of monarchy created animosities that led opposing groups in Greece to organize. The competing sides of the Greek Civil War and the aftermath of the battles created destruction and chaos for ordinary Greeks. The German and Italian invasions preceded the civil war, which lasted from 1944 until 1949 when Greek Communists unsuccessfully attempted to gain control of Greece. Full scale guerrilla war, bitter fighting, and the concurrent destruction was caused by division between two groups: EAM, its army the ELAS against EDES. The EAM, a Communist resistance group, rebelled against the EDES, the right-wing, pro-West, and pro-royalist group named the Greek Democratic League. British and American troops also became involved during the civil war, in an attempt to save the people from more destruction. During the course of the war, more than fifty thousand combatants died and approximately 500,000 Greeks were displaced from their homes.

Jeffrey Eugenides is a Pulitzer Prize winning American author who traces his roots back to Greece. Best known for his novel Middlesex, Eugenides’ work highlights the ways in which society makes it difficult for the individual to discover his or her true identity. Society’s unrealistic expectations act as barriers to self-discovery for the protagonists of Eugenides’ novels. They paralyze and isolate the characters as their questions about their own gender roles, sexual identity, race, and religion are stifled by the close-minded communities in which they live. In Middlesex for instance, the protagonist Calliope is born a hermaphrodite and raised as a female, but as she grows older, “she” begins to identify “herself” more as a “he.” Cal’s parents attempt to “fix her” by bringing her to a doctor initially for therapy, and later for a corrective surgery that would permanently transform Cal’s gender to be solely female. Cal’s parents’ unrealistic expectations cloud his ability to first perceive and then accept his true identity, and it is only by escaping his past that Cal is able to finally do so.

Major Works Consulted:

Close, David. The Greek Civil War, 1943-1950: Studies of Polarization. London: Routledge, 1993
---. The Origins of the Greek Civil War. London: Longman, 1995.
Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2002.
---. The Virgin Suicides. New York: Warner, 1993.
Photo Credit: Current Biography Yearbook,Volume 2003, s.v. “Eugenides, Jeffrey”.