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Queer Theory in The Great Gatsby

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Mary Talley

on 19 November 2012

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Transcript of Queer Theory in The Great Gatsby

A queer interpretation of the novel provides greater insight into the story Queer Theory in The Great Gatsby Nick Carraway Jay Gatsby - Nick describes Gatsby's careful grooming and eccentric clothing by saying,"[H]is short hair looked as though it were trimmed everyday" (54; ch. 3), and that he owned dozens of "shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of Indian blue" (97-98; ch. 5).
- Lois Tyson writes in her "Queer Reading of The Great Gatsby" article that "lavender and pink are two colors that have been long associated with gayness."
- Gatsby's pink suit is mentioned more than once by Nick, and is described romantically each time: "I could think of nothing but the luminosity of his pink suit under the moon" (150; ch. 7), and "[H]is gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps" (162; ch. 8). Jordan Baker ~ name could be used for a male or female
~ professional golfer, a male dominated sport back then
~ described in masculine terms
~ "a slender, small-breasted girl with an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet." (cadets are boys at a military school)
~Even when she's wearing a dress it seems masculine, "she wore her evening dress, all her dresses, like sports clothes--there was a jauntiness about her movements as if she had first learned to walk upon golf courses on clean, crisp mornings."
~ Nick focuses on her masculine qualities which could be why he is attracted to her.
~ relationships with men
~Nick explains, "She instinctively avoided clever shrewd men." She doesn't want someone to see through her facade so she dates men who she can manipulate. She may be afraid to show her sexual preference because it was definitely not accepted back in the 1920s. Tom Buchanan The Homophobic The Confused The Possible Lesbian "Now, don't think my opinion on these matters is final," he seemed to say, "just because I'm stronger and more of a man than you are."(11) -According to the article, Nick Carraway is gay but unaware of his gay orientation. Because of this and him being the narrator, everything he describes to us is influenced in a gay point of view. Many clues in the novel point to this assumption of Nick.
-The first example is at Tom and Myrtle's party. After Tom hits Myrtle in the nose, Nick follows Mr. Mckee out of the apartment, (who is described as "a pale feminine man") and when they wake up hours later, we find Nick in Mr. Mckee's bed with Mr. Mckee in his underwear.
-When Gatsby is wearing his pink suit, Nick describes the suit as if it was a desirable woman's clothes. ("I could think of nothing but the luminosity of his pink suit under the moon" and "[H]is gorgeous pink rag of a suit made a bright spot of color against the white steps.") Nick's attraction to Gatsby is attributed to his many descriptions of Gatsby's feminine qualities.
-Similarly, Nick's attraction to Jordan is explained by him seeing her as looking like a young boy by how he describes her. ("She was a slender, small-breasted girl with an erect carriage which she accentuated by throwing her body backward at the shoulders like a young cadet.")
-Nick, himself has plenty of gay signs. For example he's just turning thirty, he has never been married or engaged, and his relationships with women are never serious. Nick's denial of his gay orientation is evident in his sexual affairs with women and him seemingly trying too hard to convince the readers that he is not. For example when he wants to begin his relationship with Jordan, Nick says, "I am...full of interior rules that act as brakes on my desires." He also seems to go out of his way to make sure the reader knows he has sexual affairs with women and he insists on normality a little too much. -Macho overcompensation is directly related to homophobia -perceived as masculine; active powerful ("hulking") -supports traditional heterosexual role
-numerous extramarital affairs -his role in the novel may be to represent the negative attitude towards gays at the time the story was written -derogatory towards gays
-when he sees Gatsby he says "An Oxford man!...Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit"(129) and... - Gatsby's house is decorated quite extravagantly: "...Marie Antoinette music rooms and Restoration salons...[and] period bedrooms swathed in rose and lavender silk and vivid with new flowers" (96; ch. 5). - Gatsby's car has the flamboyance of a "circus wagon" (128; ch. 7), and Nick describes it as "a rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hatboxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of windshields that mirrored a dozen suns" (68; ch. 4).
-Tyson notes that Gatsby's possessions, his house, car, etc., are "feminine." The seemingly very heterosexual love story in The Great Gatsby gains a greater significance when viewed through a queer lens. As we plunge into the frigid waters of the Arctic and analyze several character's sexual orientation, Fitzgerald's stance on homosexuality is revealed. F. Scott Fitzgerald ~ "Fitzgerald seemed especially fascinated, however, by gay sexuality, toward which his attitude ranged, at different times during his life, from playful to homophobic."
~ His wife, Zelda believed Fitzgerald " was involved in a homosexual liaison with Hemingway."
~ Fitzgerald used to dress as a woman for a fraternity he attended.
~ Some of his remarks in passing revealed his curiosity of gay life.
~ It's clear that he was intensely involved in the aspects of homosexuality, even though there is no concrete proof that he was actually gay.
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