Two Complimentary Views

Poor Stephen.  This is what Hall continuously tried to invoke within the reader, a feeling of pity towards the heroine.  Stephen has a rough life, she was not liked by other kids, society, or even her mother.  She grew up not fitting in anywhere.  She had no place where she could be her completely realized self.  She grew up in a well of loneliness. Whether we enjoyed reading the book or not Hall makes her point clearly and multiple times: an inverts life is a difficult one and a lonely one.  This view of homosexuality is refuted and in a way looked down upon in Wings where Kuzmin posits that homosexual love is a love that should be rejoiced and celebrated.  Homosexuals, should thus not feel despair and pity from society for they are able to experience and different sort of love, which others cannot.

Are these two views opposing one another?  While Kuzmin hopes to show the beauty in homosexual love and the happiness of it he does not in fact present the reader with a societal view of it.  Meanwhile, Hall presents societies views of homosexuality throughout her book.  While she touches upon the individual aspects of it by showing us how alone Stephen in fact feels, she does so in a way that puts society at the root of Stephen’s loneliness.  All the while, Kuzmin remains in the individual.  We read the entire book as a journey alongside Vanya.  Vanya goes through an inner struggle, one however, that has little to do with societal views and more with the individual.

These authors goals, however, are completely different.  Hall’s book is meant to be more political in nature.  While monotonous and perhaps not as well written as Kuzmin’s her purpose was not to write the next great piece of literature.  She was actually demanding recognition from society and from God.  She wanted inverts to be recognized as people that could contribute to society and not simply degrade it.  Kuzmin on the other hand wanted to show the beauty of homosexuality.  Just like there was no book like The Well of Loneliness there too was no book like Wings that showed that the love that two men shared is not always tragic.  He wanted to show how homosexual love could be ideal in the Hellenic sense.  So while these two books are sharing two completely different stories, centered around different characters, plots and ideas, they are both attempting to accomplish something never before done.  They were attempting to show homosexuality in a different light.

While they certainly accomplished their goals the two books seem incomplete because they do not address what the other one does.  Kuzmin touches upon the happy, sunny side that can be homosexuality especially at the time and Hall the sad loneliness that was pat of homosexuality as well.  Yet, Kuzmin misses the impact society can have on the individual while Hall focuses primarily on it.  In the end readers are left with incomplete views.  Nonetheless, these two views are essential to the study of queer literature because they do address points which were overlooked before.

-Basil Hallward

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Filed under Week 5: Kuzmin, Radclyffe Hall

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