Social Concerns / Themes
In Difficulties with Girls, Amis returns to the relationship between Patrick Standish and his wife Jenny Standish, the characters from his novel, Take a Girl Like You (1960). In that novel Patrick worked hard to bed Jenny. He managed to get her drunk and have sex with her while she was passed out. Jenny became pregnant and Patrick married her. However, she had a miscarriage and future children seem unlikely for her. Difficulties with Girls takes place seven years after the end of Take a Girl Like You, placing the time of the novel's events in 1968, just before the passing of the English law that legalized homosexuality.
Homosexuality is one of the more sensitive topics dealt with in Difficulties with Girls. For the lovers, Eric and Stevie, this new legitimacy takes some of the zest out of their relationship. No longer will it be daringly illegal. Some critics object to Amis's depiction of homosexuality. They note that in the novel people are divided into two groups: those with male qualities and those with non-male qualities. Thus, the novel's homosexual couple, Eric and Stevie, is divided into maleness and non-maleness, with Stevie being called "she" and representing the girl element in that relationship's "difficulties with girls." These critics note that many homosexuals reject the notion that any partnership is necessarily that of a person who assumes the role of the male and a person who assumes the role of a "non-male."
This criticism does not seem to have fazed Amis, who continues to include homosexual relationships in his fiction. In Difficulties with Girls, he portrays relationships in friction, and he suggests that this friction stems in part from two divergent views of sexuality, one of which he associates with males and the other with non-males. Eric explains it to Patrick...
(The entire section is 756 words.)