If we read “The Beast in the Jungle” like Sedgwick, we see that Marcher uses May to be seen as a heterosexual man; admitting his sexuality, whether by saying that he does desire another male or a woman, will liberate him and free him from the homosexual panic.
In the final chapter of the story, after seeing the stranger’s face, John Marcher immediately assumes that “a woman was mourned.” Marcher, as a man who is ignorant of his own sexuality, fails to imagine the male stranger mourning for another male.
Sedgwick states that Marcher’s “secret of having a secret, functions, . . . as the closet.”(Sedgwick,) According to her, John Marcher is not necessarily a homosexual man; instead, he is a man who is afraid of not asserting his heterosexuality successfully. If one reads “The Beast in the Jungle” like Sedgwick, it can be seen that Marcher uses May to be seen as a heterosexual man; admitting his sexuality, whether by saying that he does desire another male, or that he does desire a woman will liberate him and free him from the homosexual panic.
Sedgwick argues that the rise of gay public images at the turn of the nineteenth century has caused homophobia and some people have become obsessed with trying to assert their heterosexuality. The rapid increase in homophobia brought on a decrease in male-male bonding. Even today, in the twenty-first century, there is an on-going hierarchy between heterosexuality and homosexuality. The silence around homosexuality is almost tangible.
The Line of Beauty, a 2004 novel by Alan Hollinghurst, clearly shows how homosexuals were tacitly repressed in the 1980s. It explores how gay people struggled with the prejudices against their sexuality in Conservative Britain, under the rule of Thatcher. The novel takes place in the 1980s Britain, the time when AIDS broke out. Nick Guest, the main character of the novel, is invited to stay at his friend Toby Fedden’s residence. As a young, gay man living in the house of a newly elected Tory MP, Nick has the role of a “guest” hence his surname. Although Nick felt like “a lost middle child”(Hollinghurst,) to the Feddens, his “guest” status is constantly reminded. The depiction of homophobia in the Thatcher era can be seen from the way the Feddens close their ears and eyes each and every time the issue of homosexuality is brought up. Nick, who is “The Other” in the household, cannot openly discuss or state his sexuality. Although every member of the Feddens know that he is gay, they do not talk about it but rather imply it; the tension in the household against Nick and every gay person in the country can be felt on every page of the novel.
The society has always considered homosexuality a problem and always searched for ways to punish gays and lesbians. There are innumerable cases to show this search in the history.
When the outbreak of AIDS, the alarming disease, began in the 1980s, life became even more problematic for gay people. The first AIDS victims were a gay couple, and this case caused many people in Thatcherite Britain to associate AIDS with gay men. This association of the disease brought about homophobia, and the government at the time enacted Section 28 in 1988. Margaret Thatcher and other homophobic Tory MPs considered homosexuality unacceptable and with Section 28, they vehemently opposed the promotion of homosexuality. As a woman who believed in the nuclear family, Margaret Thatcher was also known to be very conservative. Her idea of morals was strict and they did not have any place for homosexuality and bisexuality. Thus, gay men had to be silent about their sexuality and not be open about it.
Although it was not in the 1980s Britain, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the United States from 1993 to 2011, furthers the evidence that gay, lesbian or bisexual people were made to stay in “the closet” and not live their sexuality openly. For 17 years, “DADT” banned gays and lesbians who were open about their homosexuality from serving in the military, however, allowed those who are still in “the closet”. After the murder of Barry Winchell in 1999, who was sleeping when his killer battered his head with a baseball bat, the policy was reviewed but stayed enacted nonetheless. The murderer said that they killed Winchell because he was homosexual. Although American Psychological Association released a statement that goes “Empirical evidence fails to show that sexual orientation is germane to any aspect of military effectiveness including unit cohesion, morale, recruitment and retention”, the policy was not repealed until 2011. The reality that it was until six years ago that this appalling policy was in force, that it was very much in effect, is agonising.
The fact that homosexuals were forced to stay in “the closet” can be seen clearly in Alan Hollinghurst’s novel. Nick Guest’s sexuality is not a secret and is known by the Feddens, however, it is not ever discussed or mentioned. Much like the “DADT” policy, Nick never openly talks about his homosexuality within the presence of Gerald and Rachel Fedden, and they never ask him anything about it.