just guys being dudes

Robert’s feelings towards George were not strictly heterosexual. “It’s comfortable, but it seems so d***** lonely to-night. If poor George were sitting opposite to me, or—or even George’s sister—she’s very like him—existence might be a little more endurable” (Braddon 160). Throughout the novel, we see how obsessed Robert is with George’s disappearance. Grief and anger overtake Robert’s usually laid-back demeanor. Robert compares everything to how things were with George, and is frequently disappointed. The only woman he seems to feel strongly about is Clara, who—shocker—reminds him of George. I think Mary Elizabeth Braddon purposely crafted her story so that it was not overtly homosexual but used subtext to suggest that Robert and George’s relationship was not heterosexual. Robert and George reflected the male relationships Braddon observed in her own life, exemplifying how hypocritical Victorian high society was.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say many relationships between aristocratic Victorian men went far beyond platonic. Of course, homosexuality was considered a scandalous, promiscuous sin at the time, so coming out was almost unheard of. I believe there was a ton of internalized homophobia going on. People lived by strict social rules that decided what behaviors were acceptable or not. If you weren’t caught and followed Victorian social norms, you were assumed heterosexual. It’s like they thought homosexuality was just a bunch of flamboyant deviants running around with uncontrollable lust and low morals. This stereotyping and engrained heteronormativity allowed men to get intimately close with one another while maintaining good social standing. They weren’t gay, they were just realllllly close. At least, that was how they justified their behavior and minimized cognitive dissonance. This way, men could fulfill their social needs and not feel bad about it.

3 thoughts on “just guys being dudes”

  1. I found this passage very entertaining to read, and I do agree that I think Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s depiction of Robert and his deep love for George should be open to interpretation. It could very well be that the two men are the best of friends and Robert could not stand to allow his disappearance go uninvestigated, but the language is the book also offers the possibility that Robert is so overly passionate and obsessed with George that there must be a deeper love or connection taking place. This reminds me of our class discussion about how contradicting the Victorian Era was and how being homosexual and writing about homosexuality was frowned up and would not be well-received. On the other side of that point, if Braddon’s intentions were to depict Robert as being in love with George, she did it in such a subliminal, subtle, and brilliant way that many readers would not have picked up on it.

  2. While it is technically pointless to contemplate their sexuality, you can find some pretty funny things reading against the grain the way our prof suggested. I’m not sure if the text (Braddon) is aware of how homoerotic their relationship sounds sometimes. When they reunited George said something along the line of wanting to be held by Robert’s strong hand, which was pretty funny seeing in contrast to all this Victorian setting

  3. This passage was certainly thought provoking. I had the same thoughts and questions about how exactly to characterize the relationship between Robert and George. I still lean closer to the idea that Olivier introduced in the other comment where Robert is simply very passionate about his friend. It caused me to self reflect and think what would my reaction to my best friend in that same circumstance be. Probably driven to figure it out because life itself and every little moment would not be quite as enjoyable without them. So despite the potential for homosexual suggestions in this passage I do believe that he is largely motivated by a best friends love. The only area that throws a wrench in my thoughts is Clara because he shows a developing, it seems, attraction for the women who reminds him of his best friend.

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