“Well you’re wasting your time! I’m scarier than you any day of the week! So beat it, Ethel! BOOO! BETTER DEAD THAN RED! Somebody trying to shake me up? HAH HAH! From the throne of God in heaven to the belly of hell, you can all fuck yourselves and then go jump in the lake because I’M NOT AFRAID OF YOU OR DEATH OR HELL OR ANYTHING!”
One passage that has struck me while reading this book occurs in the encounter between Roy and Ethel while the former is in the hospital. Unlike many of the other characters in the novel, Roy has a particularly tough time coming to terms with himself, particularly his sexual orientation. We’ve seen, through several incidents, how he copes with this internal insecurity through frequent expressions of hypermasculinity. This personal attribute is perfectly identified in the passage above. In the brief but meaningful meeting Ethel makes no comments that are particularly patronizing to Roy. Despite this, it takes only the slightest provocation for Roy to lose his temper. This demonstration of anger towards Ethel is an expression of the internal guilt that has developed in Roy as a result of his role in the execution of Ethel. This internal guilt is similarly present and expressed as a result of the uncertainty and doubt Roy has towards his own sexual identity.
Though this correlation is clearly demonstrated in this passage, the concept of Roy’s personal struggle speaks to a wider application of personal acceptance. Roy is a distinguished outlier in his inability to garner any level of acceptance for himself. A stark contrast, other non-heteronormative characters such as Joe, Louis, and Prior are able to come to terms with themselves. Although certainly suffering from other personal problems, these men are able to utilize this acceptance in order to project a sense of relative happiness and positivity that eludes Roy entirely. I feel that this personal acceptance is, for the most part, symbolized by physical condition. Despite the personal issues that may arise, most of the men are able to persevere, a resultant mirrored by their respective health. Even Prior, who, like Roy, suffers from aids, is able to overcome his illness in a sense at the books closing. Roy’s gradual deterioration, and eventual death, however, shadows his lasting incapability of personal acceptance.