There has been some speculation on the boards lately about Homer's sexual orientation. Some editors and students feel strongly that the character is gay. This has never been my interpretation, but as I know there are plenty of gay characters in Faulkner, I wanted to ask a friend of mine who is a Faulkner scholar for his take.
Here is his response:
So Homer "preferred the company of men" in historical-cultural context that meant that he liked to spend time in culturally-defined "masculine" pursuits--hunting, drinking, and the like. This is an example, it seems to me, of a non-diegetic reading--of bringing "current" connotations into texts that don't partake of those current connotations and that do not need the "added" content to make their point.
There is plenty of queering that goes on in Faulkner--Joe Christmas seems to be of ambiguous sexuality and Gail Hightower is accused of homosexuality in Light in August. The New Orleans Sketches can be queered easily, and have been often. In both cases, sexuality (implied or otherwise) add to the narrative thread of the story, the incidents "carry meaning." There is no need to invent queering in Faulkner, there's plenty of it there already.
I expect the only response for Homer's "discovered" gay-ness is to ask, so what? Faulkner queers characters, he does it often, but when he does it, there is a reason--asserting that Homer is gay because he "prefers the company of men" adds nothing to the story--so who cares? So there, that's my $0.02 worth...
There are many, much better stories that should be anthologized--"Barn Burning" "Shingles for the Lord" "Ad Astra" "All the Dead Pilots" "Two Soldiers" "Shall Not Perish" for example, but every anthology seems to insist on Emily. I'm sick of the old biddy!
4 Answers | Add Yours
This is a GREAT topic, Jamie. My students always assume that Homer Barron was gay; however, I always strongly caution them to NOT assume this. I have also never interpreted his "preferring the company of men" as a sign of him being gay. I merely took this to mean he would rather hang out with the guys than spend time courting a woman! If Homer Barron was, in fact, gay, it really does NOT matter. He would have ended up dead regardless because he did not want to commit to Miss Emily.
Gee. I must be less au courant than I thought I was. I've never seen Homer Barron as gay. In fact, I thought he was a more stereotypical character--the Yankee taking advantage of the naive southern spinster. From outward appearances, he may have thought Emily had money
About other stories that would be better to anthologize, I think for the age group I teach--10th graders--"A Rose for Emily" is the best Faulkner story to start them with.
I wrote a paper in grad school discussing Homer Barron's sexual orientation. If one considers his name a characternym, you have a couple of clues: Barron, a play on barren--meaning he'd never reproduce (because he would only have relationships with men). And Homer, a throwback to the great Greek who may or may not have been gay. (However, the Greek society was widely accepting of homosexual lifestyles, so this, too, may have been Faulkner's inspiration behind giving Barron the first name of Homer.)
Also, Barron is surrounded by "barren" objects: plows, mules, etc. Things which can never reproduce. In addition, there's the part of the story that says Homer prefers the company of men.
Now, you may ask yourself, "so what?" But consider the fact that Miss Emily had come from a prominent family, and though her social status may have been on the decline, she still had the need to "save face" once she discovered Homer was gay. She would be humiliated if others knew she had fallen in love with a man who was homosexual and did not return her feelings of tenderness. Her pride is what led her to murder Homer.
All interesting points, but how we interpret this is based upon the literary theory we use to interpret. The first post seems heavily influenced by historical theory. The last seems formalist theory (I’m not sure I’ve got that right.) The point is we can argue, (and I really enjoy the last argument more), but we cannot know Faulkner’s intent because he has not stated it himself, and we cannot go back and askJ
Join to answer this question
Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.Join eNotes