The New Idea: Congenital Inverts in The Well of Loneliness

In The Well of Loneliness, Hall tries to incorporate the ideas of inversion that come up in Ellis’ sexologist essay. Her main purpose in writing The Well of Loneliness seems to be to normalize the idea of inversion and speak for many of those people who do not have voices of their own. Even in her novel, she portrays this purpose in the main character, Stephen, when her mother figures out her “inversion” and throws her out of the house. Puddle comes up to Stephen who is crying and says “you may write with a curious double insight- write both men and women from a personal knowledge…for the sake of all the others who are like you.” This is another example of how Hall portrays herself in the main character, Stephen. Hall also tries to show Ellis’s idea that an invert is also a victim of the society he/she has to live in, many times leading to social hostility that Stephen had to endure. Hall shows how this shunning from society eventually leads many of these inverts to fall through the cracks of society and end up in places like Alec’s, a “merciless, drug-dealing, death-dealing haunt”.

Hall brings to light a society of “inverts” and the idea that homosexuality is and identity just like race, sex, age, etc. that separates you from the rest of society. The difference between the “invert” group of The Well of Loneliness and the rest of the groups is that in this novel, the “inverts” group is not very unified or strong, but mostly portrayed as a bunch of lost souls. At the end of the book, we are given some insight into how Stephen feels the burden thrust upon her by these lost souls, telling her to speak with God and “ask Him why He has left us forsaken”.

Hall also uses Stephen to gain sympathy from the audience and show that she was born a “congenital invert” and that it is not her “fault”. This is very contradictory to the ideas at the time and those that are still around today that this “inversion” is a choice. The fact that Stephen is born into a noble family with lots of privileges helps eradicate the stereotype that this “inversion” only occurred in depraved families. Stephen takes her society’s disapproval with noble objection and does not fall through the cracks as many of her “invert” friends do.

Following Stephen’s life from her childhood also unearths the idea that congenital inverts are consistent at any age. Even from a very early age Stephen feels some sort of disconnect with other girls her age as well as society in general. Hall also gives hope to the inverts as the time; she states “inverts were being born in increasing numbers…recognition was coming”. However, when I read this quote I wondered what made Hall think that there were more inverts being born? Did she mean that there are more inverts actually being born or just more inverts exposing themselves to society? Or is this simply a tactic to help inverts that feel like they are all alone?

-ACT

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Filed under Week 5: Kuzmin, Radclyffe Hall

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