How can Lesbian, Gay or Queer Criticism be applied to the novel, The Comedians?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Queer Theory extends from feminist assertions regarding gender influences and a response to patriarchy and is then extended to consider and definitely question the preference and therefore license for heterosexual relationships to the exclusion of lesbian or gay relationships. In the 1960s, when The Comedians was written by Graham Greene, there was no considered place for gay or lesbian authors or characters and they remained largely unheard or were the undesirable characters in any text, marginalized by society. 

Deconstructing characters allows the reader to contemplate various interpretations of characters and Graham Greene, considered a "Catholic" author does introduce gay and lesbian characters in his collection "May We Borrow Your Husband..." but they are not accepted members of society but rather to be observed and, ultimately, pitied. However in The Comedians, although Greene may have been adapting his style, there are no direct references or nuances which may encourage the reader to think that a character is hiding behind a mask. The link here with Lesbian, Gay and Queer Criticism is the fact that characters are stereotyped and that gender does play a part in the ultimate actions of these seriously conflicted characters. Martha will stay with her husband and perpetuate patriarchy; Major Jones will, unwittingly be forced to rise to the created impression of his male dominance and superiority in war situations and Brown will remain the uncommitted, typical male character of the era, with nothing to give; his relationship with Martha rendering himself and Martha as, in his opinion, "less lovers than fellow-conspirators tied together in the commission of a crime."

This unfulfilled relationship with Martha could also explain Brown's connection to Jones when he says, "Those of us who spend a large part of our lives in dissembling, whether to a woman, to a partner, even to our own selves, begin to smell each other out." Purely for the reasons of considering this form of criticism (Gay, Lesbian), this quote could, in a modern context, signify a deeper connection between the two men that, if explored, could be interpreted not only as male bravado but men trying to find meaning and would also go a long way in explaining the problem of commitment. Perhaps they have been unable to commit to anything previously or, in Jones's case, found a need to create a persona which he clearly is not, as they have unresolved issues relating to their own sexuality. Obviously, this interpretation is pushing the boundaries and needs to be considered for the purposes of encouraging dialogue relating to otherwise unconsidered possibilities, in the discussion of gay, lesbian and queer Criticism.  

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The Comedians

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