Jeffrey Eugenides’ coming of age novels feature eccentric characters facing intense conditions such as genetic mutation resulting from incest, severe depression, or a stiflingly overprotective family. Cal Stephanides of Middlesex attempts to define his role in this world in which he, as an intersex person, is considered a misfit. Leonard and Madeleine of The Marriage Plot try to find their way out of depression that hinders both of them from doing anything productive and causes their relationship to stagnate. The Lisbon sisters ofThe Virgin Suicidesall want to free themselves of their mother’s tyranny, but they fail to do so and are never able to mature. While these characters may initially appear to have little in common with mainstream society, Eugeni desconnects every character by portraying one crucial common factor—pain. No matter what he or she is going through during the process of maturation, everyone undergoes some form of pain, either physical or emotional.The path may be different, but the process of growing up and its pain are universal to everyone.
The protagonists of Eugenides’ novels are not the only ones who meet and survivestressful situations, both figuratively and literally. Intelligence agents were trained for extreme missions such as waylaying other spies and obtaining illicit information, which happened frequently with the CIA and the KGB. The Central Intelligence Agency, established in 1947, worked on many operations in order to protect the United States and allies from communist threats coming. During the Cold War, the CIA’s main “enemy” was the Soviet Union. The KGB, the Russian intelligence agency, sent numerous spies to the U.S. and the CIA reciprocated. CIA actions aimed to reduce communist influence around the world. An additional goal emerged with the CIA’s focus on North Korea, the nation where violation of basic human rights had becomethe norm with the establishment of Kim Il Sung’s totalitarian dictatorship in 1948. In order to combat its identified enemies and help oppressed people fight for self-determination the CIAdevoted considerable time, money, and effort into training its agents, the most important part of all.
Major Works Consulted:
Andrew, Christopher and Oleg Gordievsky. KGB: The Inside Story. New York: HarperCollins, 1990.
Jeffrey Eugenides. Digital image. Cicero. Cicero, 3 Dec. 2011. Web.
Camp X: Secret Agent School. DVD. Dir. Robin Bicknell and Alex McIntosh. Canada:
Eugenides, Jeffrey. Middlesex. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.
---. The Virgin Suicides. New York: Picador, 2009.