Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness Essay

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Radcliffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness - A Classic of Lesbian Literature?

Radcliffe Hall’s novel, The Well of Loneliness, depicts the girlhood and womanhood of a non-conventional woman, Stephen Gordon, who after assuming her natural inversion during her adolescence, fights to find a place in the world. After fulfilling partially her aspirations by serving in I World War as an ambulance driver, she falls in love with Mary, another ambulance driver, and for a short while they defy the world with their happiness. This feeling, however would not last. The invert’s doom forces Stephen to the last exertion of self-denial and martyrdom when she renounces to her love for Mary and surrenders her to their common friend Martin to take care of her
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On the other hand, some of the issues the novel raises can not be conceived to be part of a work that made an impression such as The Well of Loneliness is renowned to have made. The author purpose, as she openly recognized, was showing a sympathetic portrait of the "congenital invert," one that would show the full humanity and suffering of women like herself. This vision draws on her own theories and beliefs on how the invert were, presenting Stephen as an imperfect copy of a man by design of nature never destined to be fulfilled. The inevitable path of the invert is hers: travestying, behaving like a man and impersonating every typical lesbian stereotype.

This interpretation of homosexuality, in this sense, simply supports heterosexual gender roles, suppressing any revolutionary notion around gender or sex. In fact, the kind of invert (lesbian) shown is a traditional high-class, well-educated and conceited person with no other thought than class pride and family in the most old-fashioned way. She would have made a perfect gentleman of her time except for being a woman.

Moreover, catholic religion (including a generous dose of self-mortification) assumes a key factor in the invert’s search for redemption, in a clear bias of her own experience. As a consequence to the abnormality of his doom, the invert will be a lifelong outcast with no love to redeem him and no gentility society to seek refuge in: happiness

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