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"A STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES" : THE CONSTRUCTION OF NON NORMATIVE GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN THREE FIN DE SICLE NOVELS BY EMILY RYAN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Dr. Miriam Wallace Sarasota, Florida May 2013
ii Acknowledgements I would like to thank Professor Miriam Wallace, my thesis sponsor and academic advisor, fo r all of the help she has given me through this entire process and over my three years at New College. This thesis would not have been possible without her encouragement and support. I would like to thank Professors Amy Reid and Jocely n Van Tuyl for reading this thesis and sitting on my committee as well as for all of the wonderful classes I've taken with them in my time here at New College. I would like to thank my roommates Taylor, Kyle, Paul, and Moriah, for making me take breaks f rom thesis writing to play Mario Kart, and just generally being the most amazing roommates ever. I would like to thank Ziona, Lauren, and Rosie for all of our shared thesis freakouts and nights spent watching Elementary and The Hour. I would like to than k H. for getting me through every step of this thesis wi th eir hugs and sense of humor. And finally, I would like to thank my mom, for her lifelong love of literature that has inspired me to do the same.
iii Table of Contents Acknowledgements..............................................................................................................ii Table of Contents......................................................... .............. ..... ................ .... ............. ..i i i Abstract...............................................................................................................................iv Introduction................ .................... ................................................................ ......................1 Chapter One : Queer Melancholia in The Well of Loneliness ................... ........................... .5 Chapter Two : "Though she herself was a woman, i t was still a woman she loved": Gendered Attraction and Masquerade in Orlando ........................ ..................................... 22 Chapter Three : The Gender of Domination and Submission in Monsieur Vnus ............ 46 Conclusion......................... ..................... ............................................. .. ...... .....................67 Works Cited ............................ .......................................... ........ .......... ..............................69
iv "A STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES": THE CONSTRUCTION OF NON NORMATIVE GENDER AND SEXUALITY IN THREE FIN DE SICLE NOVELS Emily Ryan New College of Florida, 2013 ABSTRACT This thesis examines representations of non normative gender and sexuality in three fin de sicle novels: The Well of Loneliness Orlando and Monsieur Vnus The first chapter deals with gender melancholia gendered belonging, and the problematization of identity categories in The Well of Loneliness The second chapter looks at performative gender, gendered displays of desire, and the subversiveness of relationships between women in Orlando The third chapter focuses on the construction of gender roles in Monsieur Vnus within a relationship of dominance and submission. Gender means something different to each of the protagonists in The Well of Loneliness gender is an elusive identity that does no t correspond to its protagonist's physical body or the way society reads her; in Orlando gender is not innate but a disguise that can be adopted for a variety of purposes; in Monsieur Vnus gender is a performance that allows its protagonist to dominate and control others. These three books all deal with these problems of (mis)representation and the challenge of accurately des cribing the complexity of an individual's gender and sexual identity. Dr. Miriam Wallace Division of Humanities
1 Introduction This thesis deals with representations of non normative gender and sexuality in The Well of Loneliness Orlando and Monsieur Vnus The Well of Loneliness a British novel written by Radclyffe Hall and published in 1928, tells the story of Stephen Gordon's attempts to understand her own masculine gender and inverted' sexuality and search for recognition and accep tance of this identity. Virginia Woolf's Orlando a British novel also published in 1928, is the fantastical biography' of Orlando which narrates his life as a boy in the seventeenth century through a gender transition in the eighteenth century and her su bsequent life as a woman into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Monsieur Vnus a decadent French novel by Rachilde published in 1884, describes the story of wealthy, privileged Raoule's seduction and domination of a poor, feminized artist name d Jacques and their subversive erotic relationship. The protagonists in these three novels occupy relatively privileged positions that allow them the luxury of non conforming gender expression and sexuality. Stephen, Orlando, and Raoule all come from wealt hy families with a long ancestry, and Stephen and Orlando in particular, living in the countryside of England, come from land owning families. The wealth and social positioning of these protagonists allows especially Stephen and Raoule to take lovers from lower social classes, where their position of power lets them take on a masculine, assertive rol e with their poorer, feminine lovers. These three novels are intimately concerned with the construction and recognition of alternative gender identities and sex ualities in fin de sicle France and Great Britain. In the late ninete enth and early twentieth centuries gender, sex, and sexuality were regulated by a medicalizing discourse that attempted to examine and label all types
2 of sexual and gendered behavior, however abnormal.' The voices of the sexologists, psychiatrists, and doctors dominated the discourse on gender and sexuality as the only ones with the language and authority to discuss such matters. Their discourse marked a shift from a Catholic perspecti ve of "categor[ies] of forbidden acts (Foucault, 43, emphasis added) to the categorization of individuals based on these behaviors. In The History of Sexuality Foucault writes: "The nineteenth century homosexual became a personage, a past, a case history and a childhood with an indiscreet anatomy and possibly a mysterious physiology The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species" (43). The behavior of these sexual and gender minorities was the method by which they were i dentified, and it in turn became characterized as their nature' or essence and given as explanation for their actions: N othing that went into [the homosexual's] total composition was unaffected by his sexuality. It was everywhere present in him: at the r oot of all his actions because it was their insidious and indefinitely active principle; written immodestly on his face and body because it was a secret that always gave itself away" (Foucault 43). Moreover, issues of sexuality, and homosexuality in part icular, were seen as expressions of ge nder identity (whether secret or manifest). Homosexuality was described in terms of a gender inversion, characterized by "a certain way of inverting the masculine and the feminine in oneself. Homosexuality appeared as one of the forms of sexuality when it was transposed from the practice of sodomy onto a kind of interior androgyny, a hermaphroditism of the soul" (Foucault 43). The discourse on non normative sexual behavior was in many ways based on assumptions about gen der and its relationship to erotic desire. It also operated on the heterocentric premise that individuals
3 are only attracted to individuals who are differently gendered' thus even within homosexuality, certain rules' applied concerning what types of indi viduals one was allowed to desire. In their attempt to document gender and sexual minorities, the sexologists and other authorities created and assigned identity categories to individuals whose voices were often entirely excluded. The Well of Loneliness Orlando and Monsieur Vnus all deal with these problems of (mis)representation and the challenge of accurately describing the complexity of an individual's gender and sexual identity. Monsieur Vnus is the earliest of the three novels by several decades and belongs to the decadent French literature of the late nineteenth century. It resists the discourses attempting to categorize gender identity and sexuality, in favor of creating its own more fluid representations. Rachilde describes Monsieur Vnus as a novel about une femme qui aimerait les hommes et qui les enc[ule] (qtd. in Hawthorne and Constable xxix). She wanted to invent new forms of sensuality and vice that would shock the novel's readers. The Well of Loneliness was the first British novel to o penly write about a woman's' desire for another woman, and simultaneously delved into issues of non normative gender identity. Hall relies on the work of the sexologists to give authority to her text, even as its protagonist resists identity categories an d ultimately reveals as such the failure of those categorizations Stephen's story functions as a personal, albeit fictional narrative in contrast with the impersonal, voiceless case histories of the sexologists work on homosexuality. Orlando on the other hand, uses playful and fantastic language to resist medicalization and normalizing discourses. Written as a love story about and for Vita Sackville West, Woolf's lover,
4 Orlando subverts traditional understandings of gender as fixed and stabl e, and explores the notion of love between women. Each of these novels is as intimately concerned with gender identity as with sexual identity and sexual desire, even as they resist a simply causal link between the two. Rather, playing with gender identit ies and presentation allows the protagonists of these novel s to explore sexuality and vice versa. The extent to which each character struggles against normative perspectives of gender and sexuality varies from novel to novel, but ultimately (whether by cho ice or not) each one is involved in some kind of resistance to heteronormative and cissexist understandings of gender and sexuality.
5 Chapter One Queer Melancholia in The Well of Loneliness The Well of Loneliness written by British author Radclyffe Hall and published in 1928, is a novel about young, upper class Stephen Gordon and her attempts to find a coherent sense of sexed and gendered self. Stephen's masculine identity and presentation mark her a social outsi der, and her romantic relationship with a woman causes her to be exiled from her family's home in the countryside of England. The Well of Loneliness portrays Stephen's struggle to understand herself and to present in such a way that others will recognize h er masculinity. Her inability to do so demonstrates itself through her profound melancholia and her constant search for something or someone who will read' her correctly and help her achieve a sense of wholeness. The Well of Loneliness takes the reader th rough Stephen's childhood at Morton, the family estate, where Stephen first experiences the queerness' of her gender and romantic attraction, to London where she develops as a writer after her subsequent exile from her home, family, and the respectable upper class society. Stephen then emigrates to Paris where she finds a community of fellow inverts' and attempts to settle down and create a home with Mary Llewellyn, a young woman she meets while serving as an ambulance driver during World Wa r I. The Well of Loneliness is ultimately the story of Stephen's search for belonging, as her desire to be accepted and understood pushes her in pursuit of someone who will recognize and respond to her gender identity. Stephen's gender nonconformity began while she was still in the womb; her parents name her "Stephen," hoping for a son. Whether or not this in some way influences her, it foreshadows Stephen's developing masculinity. Prosser describes this
6 naming as "the one moment in the novel that daringly puts into practice what should have been, the one moment in the real of the plot that refuses to accept the real of her sex" (134). From a young age Stephen wanted to be a boy; she wanted the freedom boys were permitted and disliked wearing dresses and be having ladylike.' She would dress up as Lord Nelson, an excuse to wear breeches, and though the maids laughed at her play,' Stephen took the activity much more seriously: I must be a boy, 'cause I feel exactly like one she was conscious of feeling all wrong, because she so longed to be someone quite real, instead of just Stephen pretending to be Nelson" (Hall 20). Her parents in m any ways saw her as their son, with her masculine behavior and appearance and the ease with which she filled this role. Her f ather, calling her "all the son I've got" (Hall 61), recognized early on that she was different from other girls and encouraged the development of her body and mind together. Her mother, however, sees Stephen's masculinity as something unnatural' and is a fraid of it; during Stephen's childhood, she hoped to stifle it by making her wear dresses and play with other girls, but was unable to introduce femininity into either her looks or her behavior. The tension in The Well of Loneliness between what is inborn or natural,' and what is learned or chosen begins in Stephen's childhood. Is Stephen masculine because she was born that way? Or is it because her father gave her a boy's name and encouraged her masculine behavior? Is her body masculine in appearance be cause of her lineage or because she developed muscles through exercise and wears masculine clothing? Stephen is characterized by a strong sense of melancholia that stems from her inability to name herself and to be recognized for who or what she is. She has been forced to leave her home and family in England to live in permanent exile' in France.
7 Everywhere she goes, she feels isolated and different from those around her particularly in normal' heterosexual society, but even among other inverts' as wel l. Jay Prosser describes Stephen as being "aware of herself as a qualitatively different subject. She is the most pronounced' ( 356) among inverts in the novel she is quite different from Valrie Seymour who has successful lesbian relationships and can't understand Stephen's moroseness, her sense of embodied tragedy and of a different plot" (134). This loneliness she experiences is in part representative of her deeper need to be seen and understood. She is unable to fit fully into any of the identities she finds available, and thus remains only partially explained. She is caught in the binary definitional structure of language that can only recognize masculine gendered, biological males or feminine gendered, biological females who experience strictly hetero sexual desires. Her consequent melancholia is an expression of her inability to be read and recognized in the way she attempts to present herself. Stephen's persistent and at times obsessive need to write the novel that will justify and legitimatize her ex istence and desire stems from her inability to write' her own body in the way that she wants it to be perceived. Some time after her father's untimely death, Stephen discovers within a locked cabinet in his study a hidden collection of books on sexology and inversion, notably a book by Richard Krafft Ebing. She has just been confronted by her mother about the love letter Stephen wrote to Angela Crossby, a woman living at a neighboring estate with whom she has been having an affair. Stephen has accepted he r impending exile from Morton, the family estate. She retreats to her father's study "drawn there by some natal instinct," with "an immense need to find an answer to the riddle of her unwanted being" (Hall 203). Inside the cabinet are books she has never s een or heard of, but upon opening
8 the book by Krafft Ebing she sees her name written in the notes in the margins. The narrative arc here is reminiscent of the biblical Fall and subsequent exile from Eden her father, all knowing, tried to hide this knowledg e from Stephen, until she fell in love with Angela and experienced that of which he had hoped she would remain ignorant. No longer pure' and ignorant, she is exiled from Morton as Adam and Eve were exiled from Eden because of a longing to know' herself. Reading Krafft Ebing gives her the theoretical knowledge to interpret and verbalize her experiential knowledge moreover, it contextualizes her story by placing it in a larger narrative of the invert's experience across time. Having become aware of herself she now becomes aware that many others like her exist and hav e existed. Here, the lowercase father' becomes the Heavenly Father,' as she says, "You knew! All this time you knew this thing, but because of your pity you wouldn't tell me. Oh Father and the re are so many of us" (Hall 204). The importance not only of the sexological narrative, but the Christian religious narrative become apparent in this scene, as she turns from Krafft Ebing to her father's Bible and "stood demanding a sign from heaven The B ible fell open near the beginning. She read: And the Lord set a mark upon Cain.'" (Hall 205). Like a terrible prophecy, these words mark her and shape her struggle to justify her ex istence before God and humanity. Stephen thus has access to several diff erent narratives, or discourses, from which she pulls to explain or justify her condition.' The medical books of the sexologists label her an invert,' a masculine woman who is attracted to other women, and attribute this inversion to natural or congenita l causes. The religious texts blame her for her sexual perversion,' saying that it is her own sinful nature and actions that have led her to these
9 unnatural' desires that mark her like Cain. She borrows from the terminology of the sexologists to identify herself, and justifies herself against religious judgment by making claims to being an awful mistake" but "God's mistake" (Hall 197) nonetheless. Stephen here turns the religious doctrine and imagery to her own use by describing herself as created by God and therefore not to blame for her desires, yet cursed by them because they are socially unacceptable. These two discourses are still inadequate to describe Stephen's experiences accurately, and can only provide incomplete and superficial descriptions of her identity. Krafft Ebing's Psychopathia Sexualis includes a number of case studies and real life accounts of inversion, notably the famous account of Count Sandor, a female bodied individual who lived as a man and passed so completely that he had sever al sexual relationships and marriages where the women he was involved with claimed to be unaware that he was not a real' man (Krafft Ebing 83 90). Havelock Ellis, in his Studies in the Psychology of Sex, vol. II: Sexual Inversion uses case studies writte n in the words of the individuals themselves to illustrate his theories. (Ellis 91 97). Radclyffe Hall, who had read both Ellis and Krafft Ebing, was clearly aware of this when she asked Ellis to write a short endorsement of The Well of Loneliness which w as included as a foreword. Yet The Well of Loneliness remains markedly different from the case studies of the sexologists it is explicitly fictional and its primary purpose is to present the lived' experiences of an invert, rather than use these experienc es in service of a theory or diagnosis. Hall's novel provides the situated and experiential knowledge that she felt were lacking from sexology and especially religious discourse on inversion. This lack is illustrated through the Stephen's inability to expl ain her experiences and develop a sense
10 of coherent self identity. The way she explains herself and her use of the terms at her disposal serve to further problematize the terms themselves and to point out the lack of adequate terminology with which to defi ne herself. Stephen's relationship with her body defies a singular reading' in the same way that Stephen seems to problematize the very terms she uses to describe her condition.' Stephen's body, though female,' is very masculine in its features. At tim es she is pleased with her body, for example when fencing or riding or engaging in other physical activities. Yet she also seems to experience a profound sense of dysphoria: That night she stared at her body in the glass; and even as she did so she hated h er body with its muscular shoulders, its small compact breasts, and its slender flanks of an athlete. All her life she must drag this body of hers like a monstrous fetter imposed on her spirit. This strangely ardent yet sterile body that must worship yet n ever be worshipped in return by the creature of its adoration. She longed to maim it, for it made her feel cruel; it was so white, so strong, and so self sufficient; yet withal so poor and unhappy a thing that her eyes filled with tears and her hate turned to pity. She began to grieve over it, touching her breasts with pitiful fingers, stroking her shoulders, letting her hands slip along her straight thighs Oh, poor and most desolate body! (Hall 187) To Stephen, her body feels like an unwanted weight she c arries around with her. She is bothered by her "muscular shoulders, "small compact breasts," and "slender flanks" (Hall 187), although it remains unsaid whether it is the masculinity or femininity of her body that bothers her most. Describing it as "self s ufficient" (Hall 187), she seems to distance
11 herself from it, as though it exists and functions apart from her, feeling desires over which she has no control. This lack of control she feels over the workings of her body exemplifies emphasis in the narrativ e on what is inborn, or natural ,' being more important than what is acquired through choice or upbringing. The development of Stephen's sexed and gendered body lies outside of her control, and yet she must live with the consequences of her unwanted sex an d unbidden desires. Stephen does not see either her masculinity or her attraction to women as a choice, and this becomes her justification for the life she continues to pursue. Stephen's narrative becomes coherent in relation to Kristeva's revision of Fre ud's concept of melancholia.' Stephen's loss is not the maternal object but her own sense of embodied self. The term melancholia' derives from Freud's "Mourning and Melancholia" in The Ego and the Id and describes an extended state of mourning that canno t be resolved because the lost object is unknown. Mourning, "[w]hether in response to literal death or symbolic loss names an experience of grief and a process of working through during which the mourner relinquishes emotional ties to the lost object" (Cl ewell 44). In melancholia, this process of healing is disrupted and the individual remains caught in the cycle of grief. Freud describes the symptoms of melancholia as a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self reproaches and self revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment (243). Kristeva elaborates on Freud's understanding of melancholia, conceptualizing it as mourning of the lost maternal Object and a continuous, impossible attempt to recover
12 this Object through other objects of desire. According to Kristeva, the melancholic's loss belongs to the pre s ymbolic, or semiotic, and cannot be described through language. The problem of melancholia is ultima tely a problem of signification: Le dpressif narcissique est en deuil non pas d'un Objet mais de la Chose. Appelons ainsi le rel rebelle la significatio n, le ple d'attrait et de rpulsion, demeure de la sexualit de laquelle se dtachera l'objet du dsir. Nerval en donne une mtaphore blouissante, suggrant une insistance sans prsence, une lumire sa ns reprsentation : la Chose est un soleil rv, clair et noir la fois. Chacun sait que dans le s rves on ne voit jamais le soleil bien qu'on ait souvent la perception d'une clart beaucoup plus vive Depuis cet attachement archaque, le dpressif a l'impression d'tre dshrit d'un suprme bien innommab le, de quelque chose d'irreprsentable, que seule peut tre une dvoration pourrait figurer, une invocation pourrait indiquer, mais qu'aucun mot ne saurait signifier. Aussi, aucun objet rotique ne saura t il remplacer pour lui l'irremplaable aperception d'un lieu ou d'un pr objet emprisonnant la libido et coupant les liens du dsir. De se savoir dshrit de sa Chose, le dpressif fugue la poursuite d'aventures et d'amours toujours dcevantes, ou bien s'enferme, inconsolable et aphasique, en tte tt e avec la Chose innomme. (Kristeva 22 23) Kristeva describes the melancholic as searching for the Chose ,' or the Thing,' of which s/he has been dispossessed, something indescribable belonging outside of language. The
13 melancholic attempts to find the Thi ng that s/he desires through pursuing other erotic objects, but this search will always be in vain. Melancholia is ultimately rooted in unfulfilled desire, a longing for the perfect Thing that will fill the void of the melancholic and make him/her whole. The Well of Loneliness narrates Stephen's search for the person in whose eyes she will have the right' body and who will see her for who she truly is. As with Kristeva, this search is intimately connected to desire: "there crept up on Stephen an unearthly longing of the weary and homesick spirit that endured the chains of that body" (Hall 191). Stephen desires to find her lost Thing, an understanding of herself that is impossible to articulate, by searching for the one who will recognize this self and read her correctly. She verbalizes this in terms of a coming home,' her body is "homesick" for the one who will complete her and where she will finally belong. Expanding on Judith Butler's "Melancholy Gender Refused Identification," Adam Phillips articulates the melancholia of the gender binary, which in Stephen's case is all too literal: "There is a kind of intel lectual melancholy in the loss of a third sex that never existed and so can never be mourned; this third, irrational sex that would break the spell ( or the logic) of the two" (186). Stephen sees her body as a barrier to meaningful, erotic connection because it does not fit neatly into the binary of gender, s ex, and corresponding desire: "[t] his strangely ardent yet sterile body that must worship yet never be worshipped in return by the creature of its adoration" (Hall 187). Her body feels wrong and she longs for someone for whom her body will not be a hindrance, but a means of connection and thus enable her to become a whole, coherent self.
14 Stephen's melancholic search for right embodiment finds fulfillment in her relationship with Mary Llewellyn, a young woman she works alongside during the war. Unlike Angela Crossby, who loved Stephen because she was manly but ultimately rejected her for a real' man, Mary loves Stephen because of what she is: "What do I care for anything but you, and just as you are as you are, I love you!" (Hall 312 313). Her d esire for Stephen is strong and sure of itself: "her desire for and devotion to Stephen challenge Ellis's theorization of the feminine invert as passively accepting the advances of any masculine subject. Mary seems absolutely certain that it is Stephen she desires. In matters of sex, it is Mary who proves impatient with Stephen's other worldly' reticence, as well as with Stephen's wish not to corrupt' the one she loves" (Hemmings 189 ). Mary recognizes in Stephen the identity that Stephen is unable to arti culate and desires her emotionally as well as physically. With Mary, Stephen's body is not lacking but rather is right' in that it enables her to connect with Mary not in spite of' but because' it is both masculine and female.' Stephen is made whole th rough Mary's ability to read' Stephen as well as through their physical union: "and that night they were not divided" (Hall 313). Stephen in turn finds a sense of embodied belonging through desiring and being desired by Mary. Stephen's attempts to descri be herself using the terminology of inversion provided by the sexologists gives her a framework in which to make sense of her story, but it also limits her understanding of herself and its expression through language. Stephen's melancholia is linked to thi s problem of naming as well as to her impossible longing to be both normal' and accepted as she is. As soon as she is named' or definitively labeled, as many critics have tried to do, something about her is lost. She is
15 neither a lesbian, as early litera ry critics classified her, nor the stone butch' of the 50s, nor transsexual, as more recent critics have labeled h e r 1 She escapes signification precisely because she signifies the impossibility of naming or of imposing an identity on who or what she is. In an attempt to set up The Well of Loneliness as a transsexual narrative Prosser poses the question: "D oes this failure to fit Stephen within the framework of lesbian not suggest another subject in the novel, one that is not lesbian but heterosexual and male, or constituted by the desire to be heterosexual and m ale?" (129). He claims that "T his [transsexual] narrative is installe d in Stephen from the beginning in type reconstructive both literally and literarily, a desire for surgical reconstruction in body and a retrospective narrative, a constant looking back that will allow this surgery, a nostalgic attempt to get back what should have been that is the original felt gender belied by the body" (Prosser 134). While Prosser is right in noticing that Step hen is "constituted by a desire to be heterosexual and male" (129) and is obsessed with the "should have been the original felt gender belied by the body" (134), he is mistaken in interpreting this as a sign that Stephen is a transsexual man and wants to c hange her body to realize fulfillment of the gender/body match. Rather, Stephen can only be characterized by this desire to be what she is not to have been born into a body whose sex, gender, and desire are normally' aligned. She seems to wish that she co uld have been born a man, and lived a normal' life as a masculine man with heterosexual desires, or perhaps even a feminine woman who is attracted to men. Her melancholia lies in the fact that this desire is impossible !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 For stone butch,' see Judith Halberstam. For a reading of Stephen as transsexual, see Jay Prosser.
16 modifying her body to match her gender identity would not make her normal' but in her eyes even more abnormal' than she already is. She is profoundly unable to reconcile the contradictory pieces of herself, as she identifies in some ways with men, in others with inverts (both male bodied and female bodied, masculine and feminine) yet cannot align herself with either. In some ways she seems closest to identifying with the conventionally masculine, upper class man, but continually fails to be man' enough she loses Angela to a real' man who can marry her and provide for her, and abandons Mary to Martin because she doesn't think that a life with her can be fulfilling enough for Mary. Her body and the way it is read seem chiefly responsible for these failures though masculine it remains female, and while it performs the way she wants it to (it is not lacking), it can only signify femaleness and thus inadequate masculinity to others because of their association between female body and femininity. In terms of ability, S tephen is a match for any man, but when it comes to social standing, Stephen is not a man because of her female body and thus has none of the privileges and rights given to men. D espite all of her masculinity and masculine ability, her body will only allow her to function as a signifier of femaleness to those around her. Stephen's upbringing also serves to distinguish her from real' men because she was raised as a girl, albeit a masculine one. She is described throughout The Well of Loneliness as having a combination of masculine and femini ne traits: Angela says that "S he seemed to combine the strength of a man with the gentler and more subtle strength of a woman" (Hall 177), and her tutor Puddle' tells her that because of her experiences she will be able to "write both men and women from a personal knowledge" (Hall 205). She is influenced both by her inborn' masculinity and female body, and her learned
17 experiences as someone who is masculine and female bodied. Her experiences thus distinguish her from bo th men and women while she is jealous of Martin for being able to live "a man's life, the life that should have been hers" (Hall 102), the impossibility of this and the coming together of nature and nurture to produce a being wholly unique mark her melanch olia as an impossible longing. In her essay "A Writer of Misfits,'" Judith Jack' Halberstam writes that one way Stephen attempts to express her gender identity is t hr ough her choice of clothes: "C lothing, indeed, becomes the means by which Stephen cover s her queerness and finds a comfortable gender expression. Clothing is her way of making her masculinity both real and potent, convincing and natural, without her male clothes, she is either awkward (in woman's clothes) or inadequate next to the real' emb odied masculinity of a man" (Halberstam 153). Since she cannot change her physical, gendered body, she chooses to represent herself through what she can control through outward symbols of an upper class, well dressed masculinity: Stephen literally redresse s the wrongs of her embodiment by taking on male clothing, meticulously tailored and fashioned to fit her masculine spirit. What she confronts in this crucial mirror scene is not the frustrated desire for femininity or her hatred of her body but her diside ntification with the naked body. Stephen's repudiation of nakedness or the biological body as the grou nd for sexual identity suggests a complex act of self creation in which the dressed body not the undressed body represents someone's desire. (Halberstam 158)
18 Though the clothes themselves signify respectability and normative masculinity, on Stephen they become a statement of sorts, through the attent ion they bring her: those who observe her interpret this as cross dressing, or performance, despite the fact that it seems on the contrary to be Stephen's attempt at representing her own gender identity. Prior to Mary, Stephen is first recognized and accepted for who she is by Martin Hallam, a young man recently arrived from Canada whom she meets at a social ga thering. Interestingly, like Mary he also develops feelings of desire for Stephen, although for different reasons. Martin is one of the few individuals who accepts Stephen as she is and seems to truly understand her. Upon meeting her for the first time, Ma rtin "spoke simply [to her], as one man will speak to another" (Hall 92). He interacts with her as an equal, as though she were also a man: "she felt natural and happy because here was a man who was taking her for granted, who appeared to find nothing ecce ntric about her or her tastes, but who quite simply took her for granted" (Hall 93). Like Mary, Martin recognizes and responds to Stephen's masculinity, seemingly even through his declaration of love: "I ca nnot resist the temptation to suggest that Martin Hallam's desire for Stephen was not for her as a mistaken feminine object but her as a masculine subject, his like rather than his unlike. It is perhaps only in reading his desire as always already heterosexual that Martin's declaration to Stephen seems ja rring" (Hemmings 185). Stephen's relationship with Martin is complicated by the fact that he comes to represent for her everything that she wants but cannot have. Martin is the ideal man' and in many ways the perfect' version of Stephen: they share simil ar passions and perspectives on life, and he has the life and privileges of the upper class man that Stephen longs for.
19 It is with this mutual understanding between them, together with Martin's real' masculinity, that the ending of the novel constitutes the ultimate act of betrayal, yet is also the only possible ending to Stephen's narrative of gender melancholia. Because Martin is the real' man that Stephen cannot be, the novel ends with Mary leaving Stephen, presumably for him. There is no doubt that S tephen satisfies Mary emotionally and sexually: "like a barrier of fire [Mary's] passion for the woman flared up to forbid her love of the man; for as great as the mystery of virginity itself, is sometimes the power of the one who has destroyed it, and tha t power still remained these days with Stephen" (Hall 423). Yet without the privilege of being a heterosexual man, she cannot provide social acceptance or the right to a normal' life: And now she must pay very dearly indeed for that inherent respect of th e normal which nothing had ever been able to destroy for the instinct which, in earliest childhood, had made her feel something akin to worship for the perfect thing which she had divined in the love that existed between her parents. Never before had she seen so clearly all that was lacking to Mary Llewellyn [ ] children, a home that the world would respect, ties of affection that the world would hold sacred, the blessd security and the peace of being released from the world's persecution. And suddenly Ma rtin appeared to Stephen as a creature endowed with incalculable bounty, having in his hands all those priceless gifts which she, love's mendicant, could never offer. One gift could she offer to love, to Mary, and that was the gift of Martin. (Hall 430)
20 Sh e is unable to give Mary what she herself longs for the most a normal' life and desires that are socially accepted and this inability, this lack of control over their life together and others' perception of their relationship, ultimately terrifies her. Despite Stephen's efforts to give' Mary to Martin (or Martin to Mary), Mary leaves because Stephen pretends to have betrayed their love and slept with another woman, not because she feels that Stephen is not enough. Mary does not see Stephen's physical bo dy as insufficient on the contrary, her body continues to be right' in all ways except for its social signification. It is significant that it is Stephen who feels herself to be lacking, because her body and desires prevent her from gaining and sharing wi th Mary the acceptance and legitimacy that she longs for. Mary remains faithful until the end, and it is Stephen, not Mary, who betrays their love by breaking their physical union in pretending to have been with Valrie Seymour: [It] is highly significant that Mary's desire for a normal life' nearly always reaches us secondhand, witnessed through Stephen's and, later, Martin Hallam's (damaged) eyes. Any dissatisfaction that Mary expresses herself concerns her relationship with Stephen her regret that Step hen works such long hours, or her confusion over Stephen's reluctance to embrace her as her lover. It is not by arguing for the benefits of a heterosexual return' that Stephen cures' Mary of her perversion, but by cruelly rejecting her as a lover throug h her masquerade of infidelity with Valrie Seymour. It is not Mary's gaze that is turned away from the masculine woman here, but Stephen who insists that she no longer desires her (Hemmings 191 192)
21 It remains unsaid whether or not Mary would have eventu ally become dissatisfied and left Stephen to pursue a normal,' socially accepted relationship, yet it seems that it is Stephen's melancholic obsession with normalcy rather than any need of Mary's that prompts Stephen to end their relationship. Mary's desi re for Stephen remains strong throughout The Well of Loneliness and the failure of their relationship lies with Stephen's persistent melancholic longing for wholeness that is tied to the desire to be recognized and validated. Stephen's physical body satis fies Mary's needs but even their relationship cannot fill the lack that Stephen feels expressed through her body. The conclusion of The Well of Loneliness remains true to the narrative trajectory of Stephen's melancholia and the impossibility of her embodi ment. She cannot find what she is seeking for precisely because it is unnamable and unrepresentable.
22 Chapter Two "Though she herself was a woman, it was still a woman she loved": Gendered Attraction and Masquerade in Orlando Orlando is a biographic' novel written by Virginia Woolf and published in 1928. It is loosely based on the life of Vita Sackville West, Woolf's lover for whom this book was intended, though it is largely a fantasy of gender play, desire between women, and disgui se. Orlando is born in the seventeenth century in to a wealthy, landed British family. During his youth in England he falls madly in love with a young Russian princess whom he refers to as Sasha, and never quite recovers when she leaves him suddenly to retu rn to Russia Partway through the eighteenth century, while he is living in Constantinople as a British ambassador, Orlando awakens from a deep sleep and find s himself transformed into a woman. The story continues on into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as Orlando learns how to be' a woman and marries a man named Shelmerdine, yet still find s herself primarily attracted to other women. Orlando displays a fluid sense of gender identity as she dresses in men and women's clothes depending on her m ood or the occasion, and uses gender as disguise rather than considering it a natural' or essential part of her self. The account of events leading up to Orlando's transition from male to female is shrouded in mystery and uncertainty. Chapter 3 begins with the statement: It is, indeed, highly unfortunate, and much to be regretted that at this stage of Orlando's career, when he played a most important part in the public life of his country, we ha ve least information to go upon the revolution which broke out during his period of office, and the fire which followed,
23 have so damaged or destroyed all those papers from which any trustworthy record could be drawn, that what we can give is lamentably in complete. Often the paper was scorched a deep brown in the middle of the most important sentence. Just when we thought to elucidate a secret that has puzzled historians for a hundred years, there was a hole in the manuscript big enough to put your finger t hrough. We have done our best to piece out a meager summary from the charred fragments that remain: but often it has been necessary to speculate, to surmise, and even to use the imagination (Woolf, Orlando 58, emphasis added) Details and quotes are taken from eyewitness accounts of a ceremony held the day before but no information is available on any of the subsequent events The narrator seems to remove him/herself even further from the situation and any possible blame it might lay on him/her: "So far, w e are on the firm, if rather narrow, ground of ascertained truth. But nobody has ever known exactly what took place later that night" (Woolf, Orlando 64). Orlando is found the next day, asleep in his room and unable to be wakened. The Turkish insurrection begins on the seventh day of Orlando's "trance" (Woolf, Orlando 65) and by the time Orlando awakens all of the other foreigners have escaped or are dead. The complete lack of eyewitness accounts and the destruction of any potentially relevant doc uments l eave the uncomfortable n arrator in the position of creating a plausible story to explain Orlando's transition. Interestingly, Orlando is described as being not entirely alone at the time of his awakening: Lady of Purity, Lady of Chastity, and Lady of Mod esty appear to beseech Truth to remain in its "horrid den" (Woolf, Orlando 66) and literally attempt to cover
24 Orlando with their robes. The truth about Orlando is not fit for respectable and proper society, but rather they claim, "better unknown and undon e" (Woolf, Orlando 66). They retire however, defeated by trumpets blasting "The Truth and nothing but the Truth" (Woolf, Orlando 66), and the n arrator states: We are, therefore, now left entirely alone in the room with the sleeping Orlando and the trumpet ers. The trumpeters, ranging themselves side by side in order, blow one terrific blast THE TRUTH!' at which Orlando woke. (Woolf, Orlando 67) Though this scene is presumably imagined, it is significant that the Narrator, the reader, the trumpeters, and the three Sisters are all described as witnesses to the "truth" of Orlando's sex. A s the Narrator reluctantly confesses, Orlando wakes up a woman.' This section among others plays with the possibilities of concealing or revealing secrets and the truth. Th e Sisters, upholders of morality, are banished from the room, but not without a certain amount of protest revealing that the tension between truth and what can be shown is not so easily resolved. The n arrator ultimately chooses to reveal this "truth" about Orlando, yet does so in ways that distance him/her from any moral culpability by presenting a fictitious account of Orlando's transition. Upon awakening, Orlando examines his naked body in a mirror: Orlando looked himself up and down in a long looking glass, without showing any signs of discomposure" (Woolf, Orlando 67). Mirror scenes are commonly used in contemporary trans* narratives to establish a chosen identity or to demonstrate dysphoria and lack of identification with one's naked body. Stephen Gordon's mirror scene in The
25 Well of Loneliness is fundamental to understanding her gender identity and sense of dysphoria regarding her body and its un wanted' desires. Looking at his body in the mirror, Orlando seems unfazed by this "change of sex" (Woolf, Orlando 67) and her subsequent actions are described as being "deliberate in the extreme, and might indeed have been thought to show tokens of premedi tation" (Woolf, Orlando 68). Though Orlando seems to accept his new female' body, he does not seem to immediately identify with the gender' of the body he sees in the mirror. In fact, the narrator initially continues to use he' pronouns to refer to Orla ndo until, "for convention's sake" (Woolf, Orlando 67) the narrator switches to she.' The most radical aspect of this scene is that Orlando's transition is treated as a non event. This mirror scene reveals Orlando's stable sense of self, an identity that remains unchanged even in an altered body. Her transition is accepted just as matter of factly by those around her. Upon Orlando's return to England, Mrs. Grimsditch, one of the domestics similarly seems unsurprised by the transformation and states that she had always had her suspicions (here she nodded her head very mysteriously), which it was no surprise to her (here she nodded her head very knowingly)" (Woolf, Orlando 83) Orlando and her narrator's disinterest in explaining her transition is expresse d in contrast to society's preoccupation with coherent narratives and identities. The social imperative demands a narrative that will allow them to make sense of Orlando's sex. Is she engaging in some type of masquerade either a s a man disguised as a woman or as a woman who had been disguising herself as a man? The change seemed to have been accomplished painlessly and completely and in such a way that Orlando herself showed no surprise at it. Many
26 people, taking this into account, and holding that such a c hange of sex is against nature, have been at great pains to prove (1) that Orlando had always been a woman, (2) that Orlando is at this moment a man. Let biologists and psychologists determine. It is enough for us to state the simple fact; Orlando was a ma n till the age of thirty; when he became a woman and has remained so ever since. (Woolf, Orlando 67 68) Unlike Stephen from The Well of Loneliness who turns to the authority of the sexologists, Orlando is unwilling to medicalize or make excuses for her co ndition.' And indeed, aside from the legal implications of this sudden transition Orlando's friends and acquaintances seem to accept her femaleness' without question. Orlando's story disrupts notions of a coherent life narrative (whether cisgender or tr ansgender) in that it in no way problematizes or attempts to re explain Orlando's past as a man and present as a woman: Orlando remained precisely as they had been. The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their ide ntity. Their faces remained, as their portraits prove, pra ctically the same. His memory but in future we must, for conven tion's sake, say her' for his and she for he' her memory then, went back through all the events of her past life without encounte ring any obstacle. (Woolf, Orlando 67) This construction of Orlando's identity stands in contrast to typical contemporary transgender narratives, in which the individual feels pressured to explain his/her identi ty in permanent, absolute terms. Transgender theorist Sandy Stone writes:
27 The highest purpose of the transsexual is to erase him/herself, to fade into the normal' population as soon as possible. Part of this process is known as constructing a plausible history learning to lie effectively about one's past. What is gained is acceptability in society. What is lost is the ability to authentically represent the complexities and ambiguities of lived experience Instead, authentic experience is replaced by a particular kind of s tory, one that supports the o ld constructed positions. This is expensive, and profoundly disempowering. Whether desiring to do so or not, transsexuals do not grow up in the same ways as GGs,' or genetic naturals.' (164) Orlando's narrative refuses to erase the aspects of her past an d present identity that fail to conform to normative understanding of gender identity as stable, coherent, and enduring. Her transition to female' not only does not attempt to rewrite her past as a man, but also does not preclude her from continuing to dr ess in men's clothing or demonstrate a fluid sense of gender identity. In this way she is able to parody and subvert the "constructed positions" that Stone criticizes. Orlando is more concerned with the process of creating' him/herself than with giving an explanation of his/her sex, gender, or orientation. Despite being labeled a biography, Orlando describes the life of Orlando in terms of a trajectory and series of events rather than constructing Orlando as a coherent whole: "Yet still, for all her trav els and adventures and profound thinkings and turnings this way and that, she was only in the process of fabrication" (Woolf, Orlando 86). It is difficult to pinpoint exactly who or what is Orlando through his/her life trajectory s/he seem s to be
28 described by his/her clothing or who s/he desire s rather than defined by any essential' identity. Orlando is made up of a multiplicity of identities: "she had a great variety of selves to call upon, far more than we have been able to find room for, since a biogr aphy is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may well have as many as a thousand" (Woolf, Orlando 153). Orlando defies the conventional biographical narrative in being unwilling or unable to give Orlando one s ingle, coherent identity. This resistance to traditional biography demonstrates Woolf's understanding that individuals and their experiences can never be completely represented through mere language and description or singular, coherent narrative. "Orlando 's multiple lives, or more specifically the story of those existences, continue to evade attempts to define and thereby delimit her" (Taylor 214) Orlando and his/her inconsistencies are represented through his/her various selves and the identities that s/ he takes on, through the form of images and disguises, rather than being flattened into one single overarching identity. What is revealed through Orlando is that metaphors serve to approximate or describe individuals better than any attempt to represent th em faithfully. The danger, however, which Orlando falls prey to in describing Sasha, is that the representation does not actually describe her, and Orlando instead falls in love with the fantasy that he has created. In The Well of Loneliness Stephen Gord on's great tragedy is that the mirror, which is supposed to reflect her self, does not, in fact, show her as she truly is. For Stephen, there is no truth' in the naked body reflected back at her. Stephen finds her mirrored self in Mary Llewellyn, as Mary recognizes Stephen for who she is even as she
29 helps Stephen become this whole, coherent self. Orlando subverts the notion of bodies telling any kind of truth' about sex, sexuality, and gender. For Orlando, sex and gender do not always correspond and gende r is determined by the clothing one wears and the way one is perceived and responded to rather than any inherent biological essence. Orlando reveals that maleness is not so different from femaleness men and women appear different because of the clothing th ey wear and the roles they are expected to assume. Orlando begins to become' a woman not when she undergoes a physical transition, but when she is confronted with the gendered expectations of the captain on whose ship she is travelling back to England. T his entering into the consciousness of the other' sex is simultaneously an ushering in of awareness like Tiresias, she now truly has the lived experience of both man and woman. What she is now aware of is the constructedness of gender as she experiences b eing a woman, she learns that what she had previously thought natural' for women is a highly elaborate construction. Orlando's experience of becoming' a woman teaches her what she would never have learned had she remained a man or been born a woman and s tayed in one gender her whole life. In learning how to become' woman, she learns the art (and pleasure) of disguise: "women are not (judging by my own short experience of the sex) obedient, chaste, scented, and exquisitely appareled by nature. They can on ly attain these graces, without which they may enjoy none of the delights of life, by the most tedious discipline" (Woolf, Orlando 77). Orlando describes the difference between men and women as one of pursuing and yielding. As a man, she learned how to pur sue; now, as a woman, she is discovering the pleasure of resisting and yielding (without quite giving up her ability to pursue if she so
30 desires). It is in understanding what it means to be a woman that Orlando realizes the full potential of her desire for other women: Though she herself was a woman, it was still a woman she loved; and if the consciousness of being of the same sex had any effect at all, it was to quicken and deepen those feelings which she had had as a man. For now a thousand hints and mys teries became plain to her that were then dark. Now, the obscurity, which divides the sexes and lets linger innumerable impurities in its gloom, was removed, and if there is anything in what the poet says about truth and beauty, this affection gained in be auty what it lost in falsity. At last, she cried, she knew Sasha as she was. (Woolf, Orlando 79) As a woman, Orlando finds herself better suited to love other women whether because of her newfound like mindedness or body' knowledge. Is it the female' b ody that she desires or the woman with her petticoats and perfumes? The narrator states that "love took a human shape For where other thoughts are content to remain abstract, nothing will satisfy this one but to put on flesh and blood, mantilla and petticoats, hose and jerkin" (Woolf, Orlando 78 79). Orlando has a compli cated relationship with the sexed body that relies far more on the sociocultural significance that bodies hold than physical characteristics. "Butler attempted to break down the division between a biologically given sex and a culturally constructed gender by postulating that the body itself does not have a signifiable existence prior to the mark of  gender': performative interpretations of gender give the sexed body its meaning(s)" (Richter 157). In Orlando gender is established through interaction and
31 presentation, rather than constituting a core identity. It is "always relational; it is also performative in the sense of being anti essentialist, of coming into being at the very moment a gesture is performed, an attitude consciously adopted by [Woolf's] characters" (Richter 156 157). Gender may be assumed or performed, but society continues to treat it as a core essence that rigidly divides individuals into men and women. Prior to Orlando's transition, we have no access to women's thoughts or desires it is only once Orlando becomes a woman that she is able to understand women's feelings as she experiences them herself. Orlando's understanding of other women seems to be based on a shared experience of assuming the femininity that an androcentric society d emands. This is similar to Joan Rivire' s understanding of the construction of femininity explored in her essay "Womanliness as a Masquerade which will be examined later on in the chapter. Dressed in men's clothing, Orlando is now aware that the women sh e interacts with are responding to her display of masculinity with an exaggerated femininity exaggerated because it is not a natural' part of their identity: "having been so lately a woman herself, she suspected that the girl's timidity and her hesitating answers and the very fumbling with the key in the latch and the fold of her cloak and the droop of her wrist were all put on to gratify her masculinity" (Woolf, Orlando 106). Orlando needed to become a woman in order to understand that gender is worn like a mask. What Orlando realizes is that women, unlike men, understand that gender is performative because they must intentionally engage in performances of heteronormative femininity. Orlando's friendships with Nell and the other sex workers seem to be amo ng her most rewarding relationships. The details of their intimacy and desire, however, are
32 silenced by a male client's cl aim that "Women have no desires when they lack the stimulus of the other sex, women can find nothing to say to each other" (Woolf, Or lando 108). Women's relationships with each other are subversive because women are supposed to be passive and respond only to men. In A Room of One's Own Woolf remarks that stories of women liking other women are absent from androcentric literature and th us necessarily revolutionary: "Chloe liked Olivia,' I read. And then it struck me how immense a change was there. Chloe liked Olivia for perhaps the first time in literature (82) The ambiguity of the word liked' as well as the lack of details surroundi ng Orlando and the sex workers leave deliberately ambiguous the nature of women's relationships with each other whether platonic, romantic, or even sexual. The particularity of women's relationships with other women is that they acknowledge that women have desires independent and even completely unrelated to men. Orlando undermines heterosexual convention by being primarily interested in other women, whether dressed in men or women's clothes. Orlando is intimately interested in the ways gender, sex, and di sguise work together to subvert conventionality and construct alternative identities. From the first sentence, Orlando is described as being gender ambiguous due to his clothing: [h] e for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it" (Woolf, Orlando 5). If Orlando's clothing disguises his sex, how can the narrator state that there was "no doubt" that Orlando was a man? Throughout the no vel, Orlando frequently adopts different sets of clothing and switches between gendered presentations with ease. "She had, it seems, no difficulty in sustaining the different parts, for her sex changed far more frequently than those who have worn only o ne set of
33 clothing can conceive For the probity of breeches she exchanged the seductiveness of petticoats and enjoyed the love of both sexes equally" (Woolf, Orlando 108). Each outfit that she wears reflects a different assumed identity, and each has a diffe rent purpose in that each allows her access to different types of things: So then one may sketch her spending her morning in a China robe of ambiguous gender among her books; then receiving a client or two (for she had many scores of suppliants) in the sam e garment; then she would take a turn in the garden and clip the nut trees for which knee breeches were convenient; then she would change into a flowered taffeta which best suited a drive to Richmond and a proposal of marriage from some great nobleman; and so back again to town, where she would don a snuff coloured gown like a lawyer's and visit the courts to hear how her cases were doing and so, finally, when night came, she would more often than not become a nobleman complete from head to toe and walk th e streets in search of adventure. (Woolf, Orlando 108 109) These sets of clothing correspond to different personas or selves, each of which gives her a different type of experience because of the way others interact with her thus disguised. The way that O rlando chooses to present herself in pursuing love reflects conscious choices about her own gender presentation as well as the gender of the individuals she desires. By dressing in men's clothing and desiring feminine women, Orlando queers notions of homos exuality's "love of same" and heterosexuality's "love of opposite" by combining desire of the similar and desire of that which is different. She engages in a parody of heterosexual coupling by contrasting her own assumed
34 masculinity with the femininity of those she desires, yet shares a sense of identification if not similarity with the women to whom she is attracted. In the second mirror scene of the novel, Orlando becomes fixated on the phrase "l ife and a lover" as she begins to construct an identity that will attract the type of lover she desires. Orlando queers desire by blurring the distinctions between object desired and desiring subject. Standing before the mirror, she tries on various expensive dresses and arranges her hair and jewelry: Now,' she sa id when all was ready and lit the silver sconces on either side of the mirror. What woman would not have kindled to see what Orlando saw then burning in the snow for all about the looking glass were snowy lawns, and she was like a fire, a burning bush, and the candle flames about her head were silver leaves; or again, the glass was green water, and she a mermaid, slung with pearls, a siren in a cave, singing so that oarsmen leant from their boats and fell down, down to embrace her; so dark, so bright, so ha rd, so soft, was she, so astonishingly seductive that it was a thousand pities that there was no one there to put it in plain English, and say outright, Damn it, Madam, you are loveliness incarnate,' which was the truth. Even Orlando (who had no conceit f or her person) knew it, for she smiled the involuntary smile which women smile when their own beauty, which seems not their own, forms like a drop falling or a fountain rising and confronts them all of a sudden in the glass. (Woolf, Orlando 91). The subjec t posited in this scene is a woman, rather than a man a woman looking at Orlando in the mirror: "What woman would not have kindled to see what Orlando saw then" (Woolf, Orlando 91). This line makes it unclear whether the woman looking at
35 Orlando wishes to look like Orlando or is, in fact, attracted to Orlando. Orlando distances herself from her reflection in the mirror and is thus able to describe her own reflection as the object of her gaze. She compares the image reflected to a mermaid and a siren, using stereotypically feminine metaphors to emphasize her beauty and mystery. Unlike the mirror scene of The Well of Loneliness in which Stephen feels dissociated from the body reflected in the glass because of her profound dysphoria, Orlando's dissociation c omments on her lack of identification with the identity she is projecting. Her femininity, like her masculinity, is constructed neither reflects an essential underlying gender. In "Womanliness as a Masquerade," Riviere claims that all femininity is constru cted and used by women to hide their underlying masculinity: "Womanliness could therefor e be assumed and worn as a mask to hid e the possession of masculinity The reader may now ask where I draw the line between genuine womanliness and the masquerade.' M y suggestion is not however, that there is any difference; whether radical or superficial, they are the same thing" (306 307). Orlando's beauty "seems not [her] own" and "confronts [her] all of a sudden in the glass" (Woolf, Orlando 91). Orlando does not own' her attractiveness both because she is objectified, as well as because her feminine beauty functions as a disguise. Ultimately, this femininity is not the disguise she needs to find a lover: "then she sighed, Life, a lover,' and then she turned on her heel with extraordinary rapidity; whipped her pearls from her neck, stripped the satins from her back, stood erect in the neat black silk knickerbockers of an ordinary nobleman" (Woolf, Orlando 91). Just as Orlando reveals her femininity to be construc ted, her masculinity is no more a reflection of an essential gender identity. In fluidly alternating between femininity and masculinity
36 to suit her purpose, Orlando demonstrates that masculinity or manliness is as much a masquerade as femininity. Rejecting the evening gown in favor of the clothes of a nobleman, Orlando chooses the disguise of a man as best suited for pursuing a lover. Her love of women, which is necessarily revolutionary, is given a means of acceptable' representation through her adoption of a masculine role. In men's clothing, her desire can be freely expressed without the social prohibition s against feminine desire Orlando uses a heteronormative view of gendered desire in order to subvert it. Her flirtation with Nell parodies the exagge rated masculinity and femininity of heterosexuality. The way that Orlando describes their meeting evokes images of nobility and upper class courtship Orlando plays the part of "a gallant paying his addresses to a lady of fashion in a public place" while "T he young woman raised her eyes. Through this silver glaze the woman looked up at him (for a man he was to her) appealing, hoping, trembling, fearing. She rose; she accepted his arm" (Woolf, Orlando 106). Orlando plays the part of the nobleman, and the way that Nell responds to Orlando's disguise of masculinity "roused in Orlando all the feelings which become a man" (Woolf, Orlando 106). Masculinity and femininity become parts that Orlando and Nell t ake on as they act out the narrative of heterosexual courtship,' until Orlando reveals that she is really a woman and all pretenses are dropped. Orlando's utilization of a variety of identities and disguises influences her relationship to desire and attr action. In The Well of Loneliness Stephen's desire is expressed as lack and a longing to find the person who will complete her. Stephen's search is for someone who will reflect her identity back to her not by being the same, but by being different and nee ding the differences the Stephen has to offer. Orlando by
37 contrast, articulates desire through the relationship between projected or associative images, disguise, and attraction. In "Queer Belongings," Probyn writes that "The productive force of desire ca n  be seen as it incessantly spins lines between the thing' and the representation'" (14). Desire is constructed through the individual's representation of him/herself and the way that the observer perceives this representation. Orlando takes voyeuris tic pleasure in observing others and being observe d, particularly when disguised. Gender/sex ambiguity, whether natural' or created through disguise, holds a certain fascination for Orlando and lies at the root of his /her romantic and physical desire: "Th e body itself is an oscillating semiotic system; its very polysemy is the source of desire. Orlando's great loves are both sexually ambiguous" (Richter 166). His first and most important love is for a Russian princess named Sasha. He sees her skating on a river, and what initially attracts him is that he canno t determine her sex: "he beheld a figure, which, whether boy's or woman's, for the loose tunic and trousers of the Russian fashion served to disguise the sex, filled him with the highest curiosity" (W oolf, Orlando 17). Even as he is convinced that the unknown figure must be a boy, Orlando objectifies and feminizes the figure through his gaze as he "raved" and "stared" and associates her with a series of sensory rich objects: "he did not know whether he had heard her, tasted her, seen her, or all three together" (Woolf, Orlando 17). While the figure's sex' might prevent them from pursuing a physical relationship, Orlando is in no way troubled by his desire for the boy' he sees skating: "Orlando was rea dy to tear his hair with vexation that the person was of his own sex, and thus all embraces were out of the question" (Woolf, Orlando 17).
38 The ambiguity of Sasha's appearance appeals to Orlando's imagination and inspires him to describe her. The sight of her sparks a number of associative images in his mind: "Images, metaphors of the most extreme and extravagant twined and twisted in his mind. He called her a melon, a pineapple, an olive tree, an emerald, and a fox in the snow al l in the space of three sec onds (all his images at this time were simple in the extreme to match his senses and were mostly taken from things he had liked the taste of as a boy)" (Woolf, Orlando 17). Orlando feels a connection to the images that Sasha evokes in his imagination yet because he doesn't know or understand her, these images reflect previous interests of his rather than accurate descriptions of her. They are associatively connected to his past and become constructions of his desire, while bear ing little resemblance to Sas ha herself. Even after becoming acquainted with Sasha, Orlando continues to construct a fantasy representation of he r that relies on feminine tropes: [Orlando] would try to tell her plunging and splashing among a thousand images which had gone as stale as the women who inspired them what she was like. Snow, cream, marble, cherries, alabaster, golden wire? None of these. She was like a fox, or an olive tree; like the waves of the sea when you look down upon them from a height; like an emerald; like the sun on a green hill which is yet clouded like nothing he had seen or known in England. (Woolf, Orlando 21 22) Orlando doesn't truly understand Sasha she remains, ultimately, a mystery to him and it is in part this exoticism that attracts him. She is, first of all, a foreigner; secondly, they interact in French, the native language of neither Orlando nor Sasha. French becomes
39 their secret' language, because no one else in the English court speaks it as well as Orlando. Rather than call her by her given name, Or lando nicknames her "Sasha" after "a white Russian fox he had had as a boy a creature soft as snow, but with teeth of steel, which bit him so savagely that his father had it killed" (Woolf, Orlando 20). In this way he exerts his masculine power to name' a nd thus claim her, as well as exoticizing and eroticizing her. Sasha is a traditionally male' Russian diminutive, which speaks to her perceived gender ambiguity. The references to Orlando's fox named Sasha mark her his pet' and associate her with Orlando 's past, rather than attempting to create a new' image to describe her. Likewise in associating her with a pet that became vicious and ended up being killed by his father, he emphasizes a stereotyped femininity that is unpredictable and dangerous. Sasha continues to hold a somewhat idealized spot in Orlando's memory as she is associated with Orlando's youth and remains his/her first and only real love. Towards the end of the novel, Orlando is at a department store when she smells something that remi nds her of Sasha: [O]ne of the swing doors between the departments opened and let through, perhaps from the fancy goods department, a whiff of scent, waxen, tinted as if from pink candles, and the scent curved like a shell round a figure was it a boy's or was it a girl's? young, slender, seductive a girl, by God! furred, pearled, in Russian trousers; but faithless, faithless!
40  all the shop seemed to pitch and toss with yellow water and far off she saw the masts of the Russian ship standing out to sea (Woolf, Orlando 149 150) Orlando is transported by this scent that conjures up the same gender ambiguous figure s/he saw skating on the river in his/her youth, and her subsequent betrayal. Orlando's imagination gives way to reality as Sasha appears, as a "fat, furred woman, marve llously well preserved, seductive, diademed, a Grand Duke's mistress; she who, leaning over the banks of the Volga, eating sandwiches, had watched men drow n (Woolf, Orlando 150). The illusion Orlando has created shatters Sasha has changed, become ordinar y. She is no longer the mysterious, ambiguous girl that Orlando first fell in love with: "Oh Sasha!' Orlando cried. Really, she was shocked that she should have come to this; she had grown so fat; so lethargic; and she bowed her head over the linen so tha t this apparition of a grey woman in fur, and a girl in Russian trousers, with all these smells of wax candles, white flowers, and old ships that it brought with it might pass behind her back unseen" (Woolf, Orlando 150). The contrast between the fantasy t hat Orlando has preserved, recalled by the scent of the perfume, and the subsequent reality of Sasha as a "fat," "lethargic," ordinary woman is too much for Orlando to handle. Orlando is no longer attracted to Sasha because Sasha has lost her mysterious al lure not only because Orlando's memory of her was fantasy but because Sasha has changed, become commonplace and dull, and has lost the ability to evoke these fantasies for Orlando. Orlando's attraction hinges on Sasha's mysterious ambiguity once these qual ities are gone there is nothing left for Orlando to desire.
41 Orlando's relationship with Sasha ultimately fails because he doesn't understand or appreciate her for who she is. The breakdown of their relationship highlights Orlando's immature and incomplete perspective of associative thinking, as he can only describe her according to objects he has loved in the past rather than creating new metaphors or associations He begins to see the failure of language inherent in trying to accurately describe an indivi dual: "Ransack the language as he might, words failed him. He wanted another landscape, and another tongue. English was too frank, too candid, too honeyed a speech for Sasha. For in all she said, however open she seemed and voluptuous, there was something hidden; in all she did, however daring, there was something concealed" (Woolf, Orlando 22). However, he is still unable to recognize the impossibility of naming' and redoubles his efforts to uncover what he believes to be the essence' within her that wil l unlock the truth of her being: "So the green flame seems hidden in the emerald, or the sun prisoned in a hill. The clearness was only outward; within was a wandering flame. It came; it went; she never shone with the steady beam of an Englishwoman Orl and o ran wild in his transports vowing that he would chase the flame, dive for the gem, and so on and so on." (Woolf, Orlando 22). It is only once Orlando becomes a woman that she is able to reflect on her past experiences and realize the ways in which as a man she idealized and romanticized Sasha: "At last, she cried, she knew S asha as she was" and is caught up "in the ardour of this discovery, and in the pursuit of all those treasures which were now revealed" (Woolf, Orlando 79). Orlando's relationship wi th Shelmerdine is altogether different from his relationship with Sasha. Their relationship is based on shared sympathies and mutual understandings rather than any profound love or attraction. It is sexual but hardly
42 romantic sex seems to take place in ord er to demonstrate or establish heterosexuality and proper gender identity, yet never seems to settle the question. "Orlando and Shelmerdine repeatedly put each other's unequivocal sex to the proof' (232), but sexual intimacy does not suffice to put an end to their questioning. Bodies do not yield a definitive answer to the questioning of their sexual identity" (Richter 167). The correspondence between sex, gender, and sexual orientation is called into question through Orlando's relationship with Shelmerdin e, as the heterosexual marriage narrative is subverted and gender differences are shown to be irrelevant to the point of nonexistence. Orlando and Shelmerdine understand each other so perfectly that they begin to doubt that they are each the gender that th ey claim to be: All this and a thousand other things she understood him to say, and so when she replied, Yes, negresses are seductive, aren't they? he having told her that the supply of biscuits now gave out, he was surprised and delighted to find how well she had taken his meaning. Are you positive you aren't a man?' he would ask anxiously, and she would echo, Can it be possible you're not a woman?' and then they must put it to the proof without more ado. For each was surprised at the quickness of the ot her's sympathy, and it was to each such a revelation that a woman could be as tolerant and free spoken as a man, and a man as strange and subtle as a woman, that they had to put the matter to the proof at once. (Woolf, Orlando 127)
43 Is it because Orlando us ed to be a man that she understands Shelmerdine so perfectly, or because it something other than sex or gender that determines similarity and like mind edness? Sproles writes that "T heir conversation represents not heterosexual desire, but the highly sublim ated desire of adolescent adventure fantasies specifically located in a homosocial environment. Orlando identifies with Shel, and like Shel's voyage, the description of his travels serves to avoid (hetero)sexual contact while establishing (homo)social cama raderie" (83). Orlando and Shelmerdine's relationship is made up of shared metaphors but also the construction of fantasies and metaphoric descriptions of each other. Orlando has several different names she uses to refer to him, each one associated with a particular mood and desire of hers. She calls him Mar when she is "in a dreamy, amorous, acquiescent mood, domestic, languid a little, as if spiced logs were burning, and it was evening, yet not time to dress, and a thought wet perhaps outside, enough t o make the leaves glisten, but a nightingale might be singing even so among the azaleas, two or three dogs barking at distant farms, a cock crowing" (Woolf, Orlando 127). Bonthrop ,' however, she used when she was "in a solitary mood, felt them both as spe cks on a desert, was desirous o nly of meeting death by herself and with the bonfires blazing and Lady Palmerston or Lady Derby asking her out every night to dinner, the desire for death would overcome her, and so saying Bonthrop,' she said in effect, I' m dead'" (Woolf, Orlando 128). Throughout the novel, characters evoke for Orlando various images or sensations which s / he then uses to describe or name' them Orlando seems to think associatively or contiguously rather than linearly, and this is reflected in the way that he names' Sasha by
44 comparing her to a fox and in the various scenes associated with each of Shelmerdine's names. Likewise, the novel 's construction reflects her associative memory as events prog ress chronologically but reappear later on in memories or as references. Orlando's associative descriptions reflect Woolf's view of identity as multiple rather than singular and fixed. It is impossible to fully represent an individual through words, just a s one gender identity can never fully encapsulate Orlando. Through the use of associative images, Woolf suggests that it is possible to represent aspects of an individual's identity. At the same time, however, these images reflect associations on the part of the one perceiving rather than the one perceived. This calls into question the idea that these namings' reflect any true sense of identity on the part of the individual being named' or described. Orlando's naming' of Shelmerdine is in p art the creation of a fantasy that both links and separates them. The shifts in the name s Orlando uses to refer to Shelmerdine reflect more of her own personality and desire that they do of his. Shelmerdine seems to share some of these metaphorical naming s,' as Bonthrop' also for him "signified, mystically, separation and isolation and the disembodied pacing the deck of his brig in unfathomable seas" (Woolf, Orlando 128). He describes Orlando' as meaning "the bowing and swaying of bracken as if something were breaking through; which proved to be a ship in full sail, heaving and tossing a little dreamily, rather as if she had a whole year of summer days to make her voyage in" (Woolf, Orlando 128). They each construct little fantasies of each other that ref lect the ir differing situation s Orlando's descriptions relate to a domestic, social lifestyle, while Shelmerdine's are about his seafaring life with its oceans and ships.
45 Orlando and Shelmerdine's relationship does not reflect a normative heterosexual mar riage: "She was married, true; but if one's husband was always sailing round Cape Horn, was it marriage? If one liked him, was it marriage? If one liked other people, was it marriage? And finally, if one still wished, more than anything in the whole world, to write poetry, was it marriage?" (Woolf, Orlando 130). Their relationship allows Orlando to marry, thus satisfy ing the "spirit of the age," and still maintain her independence and her writing Shelmerdine is a husband,' but not the lover' for whom Orl ando has been searching Orlando challenges traditional notions of love and desire through her relationships with other women. Her marriage is not her primary relationship, but yet another form of gendered masquerade that serves to shield her from censure Orlando subverts Riviere's claim that women experience rivalry with each other over performances of femininity (309). According to Riviere, the object of women's masqu erade is gaining men's approval. I f however, men are no longer the primary object but are replaced in importance with women's relationships with other women, then the masquerade instead functions to hide the true nature of these relationships. Throughout Orlando women's desires are suppressed or denied by the men around them. Even in Orland o's relationship with Shelmerdine, the conversation and their shared understanding revolve around his exploits and are expressed through a sort of masculine, homosocial bond. Women's feelings for each other, on the other hand, are not representable and can only be hinted at. Orlando subverts this imperative by demonstrating her desire for women through the disguise of masculinity in this way, her desire is expressible and ultimately works to subvert the notion that women cannot desire each other
46 Chapter Th ree The Gender of Domination and Submission in Monsieur Vnus Monsieur Vnus was written by French female novelist Rachilde and published in 1884. It tells the story of Raoule de Vnrande's seduction, domination, and eventual destruction of Jacques Silvert. Raoule, a wealthy young woman living in Paris with her aunt, becomes infatuated with Jacques, a poor, young painter and flower maker. The masculine Raoule decides to take Jacques as her mistress' and mould him to suit her wildest fantasies. Their sexual experimentation spirals out of control after Raoule makes Jacques her wife ; once Jacques' feminization' is complete, he turns to Raoule's manly friend le Baron de Raittolbe when Raoule's masculinity no longer satisfies him. From the moment tha t Raoule first lays eyes on Jacques, he is depicted as simultaneously male' and feminine. Raoule, in search of a flower maker to complete an outfit for an upcoming ball, ends up at Jacques' home in search of Marie Silvert, fleuriste, dessinateur (Rachil de 7). She sees Jacques seated at a table making flowers out of paper, and asks to see Marie Silvert. He responds, C'est bien ici, Madame, et pour le moment, Marie Silvert, c'est moi (Rachilde 9). Raoule is struck by the incongruity the situation: faite d'une voix aux sonorits mles, cette rponse avait quelque chose de grotesque, qui ne corrigeait pas la pose embarrasse du garon, tenant ses roses la main (Rachilde 9). Jacques is both male' and feminized (literally and figuratively) by the role th at he adopts. Raoule and Jacques find themselves seated across from each other: Ainsi placs ils pouvaient se voir des pieds la tte (Rachilde 11). Yet Raoule is the one who begins to inspect Jacques and assigns him the role of the feminine object. She notices his hanches saillantes, avec des jamb e s droites, mince s aux chevilles
47 (Rachilde 11), body parts that are typically associated with femininity. Raoule describes him as virginal and untainted by masculine experience: sa bouche avait le ferme contour des bouches saines que la fume, en les saturant de son parfum viril, n'a pas encore fltries (Rachilde 11). Only his hands, voice, and hair betray the maleness' of his body: La main assez large, la voix boudeuse et les cheveux plants drus tai ent en lui les seuls indices rvlateurs du sexe (Rachilde 12). Raoule's gender is primarily characterized by her dominant masculine attitude and subverts the notion of sexed bodies as representative of gender identity. Her gender is rather one of perfor mance, which is aided by her clothing and striking features. She is described as being in possession of her own body her formes dlicates ," "attaches fines," and d marche un peu altire," characteristic of a vraie fille de race (Rachilde 19), are not made available for the gaze of others. Though delicately shaped, Raoule is nevertheless hard and unfeminine in her appearance. She is neither belle nor jolie but grande and bien faite (Rachilde 19). Her physio nomie l'expression dure [qui] ne s duisait pas" and "l vres minces [qui] attenaient d'une manire dsagrable le dessin pur de la bouche (Rachilde 19 20) are almost masculine to the extent that they are unbeautiful' and intentionally desexualized. Even her formes dlicates (Rachilde 19) are described as feline rather than feminine, thus connoting strength and agility rather than weakness. She ultimately retains her status as masculine subject rather than feminine object by the intensity and willfulness of her gaze. Her eyebrows, merveil leusement tracs avaient une tendance marque se rejoindre dans le pli imprieux d'une volont constante (Rachilde 20). Her eyes, black with reflets mtalliques ," are deux braises quand la passion les allumait deux piqres de feux (Rachilde 20). De spite her
48 female' body, Raoule takes on a masculine role in most of her relationships. Whether as de Raittolbe's ami or Jacques' amant Raoule demonstrates that bodies, and even clothing, do not always correspond to gender. Rao ule and Jacques further sub vert notions of gender by considering themselves in terms of active/passive or dominant/submissive partners rather than strictly male'/female.' Especially in the beginning, Raoule conceives of their relationship as one of two male lovers. While Jacques is ba thing behind a curtain, Raoule who is secretly watching tells him not to worry by emphasizing that they are both garcons This bond of shared gender does not prevent sexual attraction, however, as Jacques quickly realizes: Vous savez, Monsieur de Vnra nde, dit il d'un ton boudeur, mme entre hommes ce n'est pas convenable Vous regardez !" (Rachilde 39). Raoule finds Jacques beautiful according to the ancient Greek notion of beauty, in which "beauty is conceived as a male attribute Greek legend abounds in examples of males pursued for their beauty, standards of beauty are often predicated on male archetypes (Adonis, Apollo, Ganymede, Antinous)" (Boswell 31). Monsieur Vnus contains numerous re ferences to beautiful men from a ncient Greek myth and history particularly ones with homosexual connotations like Antinous. Antinous is a notable figure throughout the novel: Raoule describes Jacques as his descendent (Rachilde 43) and she has a bust of Antinous in her room, which is first alluded to during the sce ne in which Raoule describes her love affair to de Raittolbe, almost as though it were representative of Jacques himself (Rachilde 68 77) The bust later reappears in her bedroom on their wedding night (Rachilde 178). Raoule plays with the gender of their
49 i nteractions, at times acting as though they were male lovers and other times playing the part of a heterosexual relationship in which she is the man,' and Jacques the woman.' The structure of Raoule and Jacques' relationship is clear from the start, as Raoule who is wealthy, masculine, and assertive becomes infatuated with Jacques, who is youthful, poor, and feminized first through his profession and then by her gaze and demeanor towards him. Raoule's superior status and wealth enable her to take Jacques as her mistress' as she supports him financially, and make it impossible for him to say no. She is not satisfied with this coerced prostitution,' however, as she not only wants him to occupy this inferior erotic position but also to enjoy it. Raoule for cibly feeds him hashish, in order to possess him erotically in this dreamlike state and control their interaction: nous allons nous appartenir dans un pays trange que tu ne connais point Je viens te dpouiller de tes sens vulgaires pour t'en donner d'a utres plus subtils, plus raffins. Tu va s voir avec mes yeux, goter avec mes lvres (Rachilde 61). Jacques is naked, his body is glorified while also leaving him vulnerable in comparison to Raoule, who remains completely clothed: la femme noire, lui, to ut resplendissant d'une nudit lumineuse (Rachilde 62). When Jacques emerges from this hashish induced stupor, Raoule acts as though it was all a hallucination. By convincing him that he had dreamed their entire sexual encounter, she instills in him the d esire to reproduce the experience and turns her desire into his. He now wants the type of sexual relationship that she is pushing him towards, rather than simply resigning himself to this submissive role. Raoule tells de Raittolbe that she is not content with reproducing a pre existent sexuality tre Sapho, ce serait tre tout le monde (Rachilde 70). Rather, she is creating une dpravation nouvelle (Rachilde 73) by falling in love with Jacques. She
50 tells him that she is amoureux d'un homme (Rachilde 74), thus emphasizing her own dominant, masculine position in the relationship. There is no vocabulary to describe the sexuality they invent: "It is not just that Raoule takes the initiative in sex or is aggressive, behaviors that are sometimes sufficient to make women seem masculinized; rather, she performs a type of sexual act that has no name in the phallogocentric imaginary" (Hawthorne and Constable xxix). She conceives of their relationship at times as one of male homoeroticism, at others as an inverte d parody of heterosexual coupling, yet neither of these labels or identities is sufficient in describing its complexity. It is precisely this inability to name their relationship that Raoule desires, as they go about creating a love' that lies completely off the map. Unlike Radclyffe Hall's Stephen, who longs to be normal but cannot be seen or understand herself as such, Raoule wants her sexuality to be abnormal and indefinable by the outside world. Yet it is this fluidity and the inability to categorize t heir coupling that make it unstable and ultimately unsustainable. Raoule recognizes the long term impossibility of maintaining such a relationship: J'ai voulu l' impossible je le possde C'est dire non, je ne le possderai jamais (Rachilde 74). Ra oule enacts her masculinity as ownership and dominance over Jacques in order to force him into a position of feminine submissiveness. Raoule encourages Jacques' growing femininity by playing the role of his male' lover and treating him as her mistress, as well as by forcing him into a passive position by dominating him and exerting tight control over their sexual encounters. In feminizing him, she dominates him, as the expression of her masculinity is phallic ownership of the submissive female'. She refer s to him interchangeably as her slave and her mistress. Initially she is careful to treat
51 their gendered exchanges as play,' in order to get him so used to their interactions that they become internalized: Plus il oubliait son sexe, plus elle multipliait autour de lui les occasions de se fminiser, et pour ne pas trop effrayer le mle qu'elle dsirait touffe r en lui, elle traitait d'abord de plaisanterie, quitte la lui faire ensuite accepter srieusement, une ide avilissante (Rachilde 96). His submis sion to her reflects both the powerful effect she has over him as well as his own latent and potentially innate desire for this feminine submission: Jacques Silvert, lui cdant sa puissanc e d'homme amoureux, devint sa chose, une sorte d'tre inerte qui se laissait aimer parce qu'il aimait lui mme d'une faon impuissante. Car Jacques aimait Raoule avec un vrai cur de femme. Il l'aimait par reconnaissance, par soumission, par un besoin latent de volupts inconnues Il se faisait une ncessit naturelle de s habitudes dgradantes qu'elle lui donnait (Rachilde 94) It remains deliberately ambiguous throughout the novel whether the extent of Jacques' feminization is due to his natural propensities or Raoule's domination, but both are hinted at, and it seems th at in any case, Jacques grows dependent on the sexual experiences she gives him. In constructing the dynamics of their relationship, Raoule employs many different tactics to shape Jacques to fit the feminine role in complement to her masculinity. As in Th e Well of Loneliness and Orlando mirrors function both in distancing oneself from one's dysphoric body as well as in establishing a chosen, oftentimes carefully constructed identity. In Monsieur Vnus Raoule attempts to use this relationship between mirr ors and identity to alter and control Jacques' perception of himself. She shows him his own
52 reflection in the mirror, describing to him the beauty of his various physical attributes: Tu es si beau, chre crature, que tu es plus belle que moi! Regarde l bas, dans la glace penche, ton cou blanc et rose comme un cou d'enfant Regarde ta bouche merveilleuse, comme la blessure d'un fruit mri au soleil! Regarde la clart que distillent tes yeux profonds et purs comme le jour tout entier regarde! (Rachi lde 88). In this scene, Raoule exerts her ownership of Jacques by controlling the description of his body and forcing him to see himself the way she sees him. As the feminine object of Raoule's desire, Jacques' body is what defines his worth: Jacques, don t le corps tait un pome, savait que ce pome serait toujours lu avec plus d'attention que la lettre d'un vulgaire crivain comme lui (Rachilde 126). She forces him into the position of the object, commanding him to look into the mirror so that she can then tell him what he is to see reflected in it. In this way she establishes that this feminized reading of his body is the only possible reading and in turn influences his own perception and understanding of himself. Raoule needs Jacques' feminine submi ssiveness to mirror back her own masculinity by contrast. She dominates Jacques in order to force him into a position that will acknowledge and respond to her masculinity. In the essay "The Bonds of Love: Rational Violence and Erotic Domination" Jessica Be njamin examines the dominant/submissive relationship by looking into the dialectic of the Master and Slave presented by Hegel and expanded upon by Bataille. Domination is a response to the fear of being dependent on other, autonomous subjects for recogniti on of one's own identity. Individuals require other subjects to recognize and respond to the identity they project domination, however, refuses this dependency by refusing to recognize the other as an
53 autonomous subject. "No subject can really extricate he rself or himself from dependency on other subjects, from her or his need for recognition. The isolated subject seeks protection from this dependency Just as she or he seeks to be different and individual by making the other person an object, she or he see ks autonomy by dominating the other person" (Benjamin 150). Individuals develop a sense of their own identity and autonomy through being recognized by others and having an effect on those around them: "Autonomous selfhood develops, and is later confirmed, chiefly by the sense of being able to affect others by one's acts. The effect we have on something or someone is a way of confirming our reality. If our acts have no effect on the other, or if the other refuses to recognize our act, we feel ourselves to b e powerless" (Benjamin 151). It is this fear of powerlessness and of not being recognized or responded to in ways that affirm one's identity that lead individuals to seek to dominate others as objects rather than recognizing them as subjects. The violent aspect of domination is closely linked to gender differentiation through the exertion of masculine subjectivity at the expense of the feminine object. "Domination contains the threat or the possibility of violence against the other. Violence is predicated upon the denial of the other person's independent subjectivity and the denial of her or his autonomy. Violence is also a way of expressing or asserting control over another, of establishing one's own self boundary and negating the other person's" (Benjami n 150). Violence provides a means for subjects to exert their masculinity with complete disregard to others and thus distinguish themselves from the feminized objects of their violence: "Like the other forms of false differentiation, violence is a particul arly apt form for the assertion of male identity. It is a way of repudiating sameness,
54 dependency, and closeness with any other person while attempting to avoid the consequent feelings of aloneness. One makes the other an object but retains possession of h er or him" (Benjamin 150). The dominant subject seeks to control the other as an object in order to feel powerful and to distance him/herself from the possibility misrecognition or rejection. The problem, however, is that in order for a subject to establis h him/herself as autonomous, the subject needs recognition from others: "But if we act in such a way so that the other person is completely negated, there is no one there to recognize us. Therefore it is necessary that, when we affect an other, she or he n ot simply dissolve under the impact of our actions. The other must simultaneously maintain her or his integrity, as well as be affected" (Benjamin 151). If a subject is in complete control of another individual, it becomes impossible for the individual to recognize the identity of the subject in question. In Monsieur Vnus Raoule positions herself as the dominating, masculine subject while turning Jacques more and more into the submissive feminine object. Like Stephen from The Well of Loneliness Raoule needs her masculine identity to be acknowledged by others. Unlike Stephen, however, who remains paralyzed by her inability to be read correctly until she meets Mary, Raoule decides to take matters into her own hands and create' the individual who will me et her desires and mirror her appropriately. In choosing a man' to force into submission, Raoule exerts her own dominant masculinity and shows herself to be more man' than Jacques: Tu dois t'apercevoir que, de nous deux, l e plus homme c'est toujours mo i (Rachilde 85). Jacques' femininity both complements and distinguishes itself from Raoule's masculinity, as Jacques thus constructs Raoule as masculine subject by being her opposite. Raoule exerts violent
55 control over Jacques in order to assert her own m asculine identity. She forbids not only sexual intimacy outside of their relationship, but any kind of verbal or physical contact with others over which she is not in control. She wants control over his body and she wants him to recognize her ownership of him and act accordingly submissive: Je voudrais t'avoir moi seule, et tu parles, tu ris, tu coutes, tu rponds devant les autres avec l'aplomb d'un tre ordinaire !" (Rachilde 85). Upon discovering that Jacques has been whipped by de Raittolbe, Raoule is upset not by the thought that Jacques has been hurt but because this constitutes a violation of their relationship and of her ownership over his body. She tells him: Il faut que j'efface chaque cicatrice sous mes lvres ou je te reverrai toujours nu d evant lui (Rachilde 132). De Raittolbe has threatened her masculine domination by exerting himself as a vrai mle (Rachilde 121) in beating Jacques. Raoule becomes violent at the thought that her control over Jacques might not be enough to keep him fait hful to her. She sees de Raittolbe as a rival for Jacques affection, one who is potentially more man' than she is, and must reassert her masculinity by beating Jacques even more violently than de Raittolbe was capable of doing. She takes sadistic, uncont rolled pleasure in literally marking her ownership of his body by penetrating' his wounds: Jacques se tordait, perdait son sang par de vritables entailles que Raoule ouvrait davantage avec un raffinement de sadique plaisir. Toutes les colres de la natu re humaine qu'elle avait essay de rduire nant dans son tre mtamorphos, se rveillai en t la foi s, et la soif de c e sang qui coulait sur des membres tordus remplaait maintenant tous les plaisirs de son froce amour (Rachilde 133). This dfloration complte (Rachilde 132) of
56 Jacques' body, with all of its sexual connotations, marks the next step in her domination and his submission. Raoule's relationships with (other) men take on homosocial and even homoerotic tones through her enactmen t of masculinity and others' acknowledgement of it. Raoule and the Baron de Raittolbe's interactions demonstrate their homosocial bonding. Similarly to Stephen and Martin in The Well of Loneliness what attracts de Raittolbe to Raoule is not her femininity but their alikeness he sees his own masculinity mirrored by her. What determines the gender of their interactions is not the clothing she wears, but the way she asserts herself and the way that he reads her: De Raittolbe ne pensait pas la robe de Raoul e et Raoule ne s'occupait pas du tout des moustaches du jeune officier (Rachilde 76). In asking for her hand in marriage, his unconventional proposal is based on their shared masculinity: Raoule je vous ai abandonn mon cur je ne m'en irai pas sans vo us le reprendre, et comme je l'ai plac trs prs du vtre j'espre que vous vous tromperez deux curs de garon, deux curs de hussard doivent tre du mme rouge Rendez moi le vtre gardez le mien Dans un mois nous chasserons ensemble de vrais lions d ans une vritable Afrique (54). The life of masculine adventure that he offers her is what you would expect of two young bachelors, not a newly married couple. Though she refuses to take him as her lover, the bond between them grows stronger as de Raitt olbe becomes her confidante and listens as she confesses the details of her infatuation with Jacques: Il aurait prfr, de beaucoup, possder Raoule par autre chose que p ar les secrets de sa vie prive ; mais enfin, une belle matress e n'est pas rare, tan dis qu'on n'a pas toujours l'occasion de faire, sur le vif, l'tude d'une dpravation
57 nouvelle (Rachilde 82). In many ways, theirs is the only relationship in this novel between equals de Raittolbe's "possession" of Raoule through intimate knowledge of he r exploits is balanced by his feminizing devotion to her. Analyzing Raoule's relationship with Jacques enables Raoule and de Raittolbe to form a homoerotic bond; de Raittolbe's own subsequent infatuation with Jacques completes the triangle in which Raoule and de Raittolbe vie for Jacques' erotic attraction. Sedgwick, referencing Ren Girard's book Deceit, Desire, and the Novel writes that "in any erotic rivalry, the bond that links the two rivals is as intense and potent as the bond that links either of the rivals to the beloved" (Sedgwick 21). In this case, their shared attraction to the feminine Jacques enables Raoule and de Raittolbe to be together' while maintaining their masculine roles in a way that would have been impossible had they married: ce cou ple intelligent, de Raittolbe et Raoule, taient devenus presque en mme temps la proie d'une double bestialit (Rachilde 120) Their triangle is unconventional and potentially subversive in its makeup: the gender of the individuals matches that of the ty pical love triangle, but their sex' does not. Jacques' sister Marie scornfully alludes to Jacques' feminine position between Raoule and de Raittolbe, implying that he functions as the erotic object of both: Est il joli comme a entre ses deux hommes (Rachilde 170). Jacques' beating at the hands of de Raittolbe, and later Raoule, becomes a point of shared connection that borders on the erotic in speaking to de Raittolbe, Raoule refers to it as notre uvre (Rachilde 143). Raoule and Jacques' relation ship begins to spiral out of control as what began as play acting and fantasy becomes real rep resentations of desire. Une seule fois ils avaient jou sincrement la comdie tous les deux, ils avaient pch contre leur amour, qui pour
58 vivre avait besoin de regarder la vrit en face, tout en la combattant par sa propre force (Rachilde 183). Benjamin writes that "Erotic domination is constructed to avoid the loss of the essential tension [between control and lack of it]. However, this can only work if the m aster slave relationship is enacted as fantasy, or at any rate restricted. Otherwise, the outcome is the inevitable negation of one subject by another" (154 155). Though their relationship had previously existed only in secret, hidden away from the rest of the world, they make their first public appearance together at a ball organized by Raoule and her aunt when Raoule decides to introduce Jacques into society in order to marry him acceptably' They find themselves unable to interact in socially acceptab le ways, as Jacques redevint le corps dompt de cet esprit infernal qui lui apparaissait l Il se rappela tout coup que devant elle il tait complet, que lui redevenait sa joie comme elle tait sa souffrance (Rachilde 153). The daring nature of their shifting between secret love affair and public courtship becomes a new source of excitement in their relationship, as they strive to maintain a faade of normalcy while engaging in non normative sexual behavior. They find ways to enact the illicit nature o f their relationship through coded means, for example as they dance together at the ball: il ne formait avec elle, qu'une taille, qu'un buste, qu'un tre. A les voir presss, tournoyants et fondues dans une treinte ou les chairs, malgr leurs vtements, se collaient aux chairs, on s'imaginait la seule divinit de l'amour en deux personnes, l'individu complet ... deux sexes distincts en un unique monstre (Rachilde 157). In dancing together, their bodies appear fluid and they seem to merge together, in many ways like the fantasy of their sexual coupling. Their sexes are described as remaining distinct,' yet it is deliberately unclear whether they
59 form a heterosexual or homosexual couple, and if heterosexual which of the two represents which sex. As Raoule and Jacques transition from secret affair to public marriage, their private relationship begins to reflect the influence of normative gender roles. Raoule demonstrates this metamorphosis on their wedding night as she begins to more fully embody the role of Jacques' husband.' Though she wore a dress for their wedding, once the guests leave Raoule changes into men's clothing: Enfin avait elle dit, quand la robe de damas aux chastes reflets tait tombe ses pieds impatients. Elle prit une petite cl de c uivre, ouvrit un placard dissimul dans la tenture et en tira un habit noir, le costume complet, depuis la botte vernie jusqu'au plastron brod. Devant la glace, qui lui renvoyait l'image d'un homme beau co m me tous les hros de roman que rvent les jeunes filles, elle passa sa main, o brillait l'alliance, dans ses courts cheveux boucls (Rachilde 176) This is not the first time that Raoule has appeared dressed as a man, but it is significant that instead of seeing the reflection of a woman in men's clothi ng she now sees l'image d'un homme (Rachilde 176). She sees the reflection of herself as the embodiment of a heroic masculinity, where presumably Jacques is the jeune fille dreaming about her. Jacques asks her to pretend that he is her virgin bride whom she must persuade to consummate the relationship, but the acting out of fantasy has become such a normal part of their relationship that he is unaware that she is playing along with him: Raoule tomba sur les genoux, les mains jointes, ravie de le voi r dupe lui mme et par habitude de la supercherie qu'il implorait, sans se douter qu'elle l'employait dans son langage passionn
60 depuis vingt minutes (Rachilde 183). Their fantasy of gender has become so ingrained in their understanding of themselves and each other that it has ceased to be mere play' and now forms the basis of their relationship. Jacques emerges at the ball as feminized object, attracting attention from both men and women alike. With his sourire de fille amoureuse Jacques is irresistib le to the men at the party; "[il] leur donna tous, le mme tressaut inexplicable sa hanche, cambr e sous l'habit noir, les frla une seconde et d'un mme mouvement, ils crisprent leur mains devenues moites (Rachilde 159). Although Raoule has created Jacques for her own pleasure, his transformation into erotic object now makes him available for the gaze and interest of (other) men. The dynamics of their relationship are revealed to be unsustainable as Jacques continues to embody more fully the femini ne object of her desire, his internalization of this identity leads him to pursue de Raittolbe who is more man' than Raoule. Raoule has inspired or awoken Jacques' longing for the masculine dominator to mirror his passive feminine receptivity, and her mas culinity ultimately fails to satisfy The lack present in Raoule's masculinity is foreshadowed earlier in the novel : Pourtant, soupira Jacques, il te manquera toujours quelque chose !" (Rachilde 104). Both Raoule and Jacques' bodies ultimately serve to shatter the illusion of reality that they have created and demonstrate the loss or failure of their initial goal: "la destruction de leur sexe (Rachilde 98). On their wedding night, in the middle of their passionate sexual enco unter, Raoule unbuttons her shirt to reveal her breasts and Jacques is horrified at the shattering of their elaborate artifice: Ra oule tu n'est donc pas un homme Tu ne peux donc pas tre un homme !" (Rachilde 184). In the end, bodies matter and for all of Raoule's masculinity, her body is no longer what Jacques desires. In
61 creating in him the longing for the masculine, she has likewise instilled in him the need for t he masculine body that will mirror back his femininity more completely than Raoule can. Jacques begins to demonstrate interest in (other) men as his relationship with de Raittolbe develops. De Raittolbe believes that his masculinity will positively influence the development of Jacques's own masculinity : Dans cette triste situation il pensait que son influence d'homme vritablement viril devait se dclarer (Rachilde 115) Hoping to revive Jacques' sense of masculinity and normative heterosexual attraction, he decides to take Jacques to a brothel, but his initial desire to create Jacques as a heterosexual man does not ultimately prevent his seduction at the hands of Jacques. De Raittolbe, with the brothel in mind, asks avez vous envie d'essayer autre chose sans que jamais votre bourreau femelle en sache rien ?" (Rachilde 190). Jacques responds Peut tre and eut un trange sourire (Rachilde 191), suggesting that what Jacques refers to is a different kind of sexual experience: de Raittolbe is proposing an alternative to the bourreau ," but Jacques wants something other than the "femelle ." The n Jacques, confondant toujours les hommes dans Raoule et Raoule dans les hommes se leva et vint joindre ses mains sur l'paule de de Raittolbe (Rachilde 192). De Raittolbe jumps up when he feels Jacques' breath on his neck, shaking from the contact, and tells him: Jacques, mon petit, pas de s duction ou j'appelle la police des murs (Rachilde 192), yet when Jacques continues his flirtation de Raittolbe cannot help but respond. He thinks that his masculinity will save Jacques by encouraging the developm ent of masculinity, but it is actually the fact that de Raittolbe is so masculine that leads Jacques to desire him.
62 H is virility causes Jacques attraction and doesn't ultimately prevent his own responding attraction to Jacques Jacques returns home late one night from his sister's brothel where, he tells Raoule, pas une de ces filles n'a pu faire revivre ce que tu as tu, sacrilge! Je les dteste, les femmes, oh! Je les dteste !" (Rachilde 194). Rachilde is shocked, but ultimately does not seem to be upset by his actions Jacques' (attempted) sexual encounter with a woman is not really a threat: Elle avait pardonn parce que peut tre, au fond, elle tait heureuse qu'il se ft prouv lui mme qu'il tait la merci de son infernale impuissance (Rac hilde 195). But a month later when she receives a note from Marie Silvert, telling her to go to de Raittolbe's house where vous y verrez des choses qui vous feront plaisir (Rachilde 194), she assumes the worst. Jacques' seduction of a man constitutes the ultimate betrayal: il a pu vouloir tromper sa femme il est incapable de trahir son amant !" (Rachilde 195). Raoule enters de Raittolbe's home dressed as a man to find that Jacques is here, dressed as a woman. Though there is no concrete evidence of a sex ual encounter between Jacques and de Raittolbe, it is clear that Jacques came to him with this intention in mind. De Raittolbe tells Raoule that he refused Jacques' advances but she pushes him, saying Ah, mais ensuite tu a s voulu te brler la cervelle (R achilde 199). De Raittolbe can only respond with Mon honneur est plus susceptible que le vtre !"(Rachilde 199). Jacques has visible red marks on his neck, which suggests that their encounter was only temporarily resisted. Raoule and Jacques emerge from t he bedroom with switched outfits. Raoule takes control of the story, claiming the role of the adulterous wife, and as they are leaving, she says to de Raittolbe: j'ai t surprise en fragrant dlit, mais mon mari ne veut pas un
63 scandale public. Il vous at tendra six heures (Rachilde 200) for a duel. The role reversals in this scene point to the impossibly precarious dynamic of their relationship as it struggles to exist both in the secrecy of the bedroom and to adapt to conventional roles in the social r ealm. When asking for his hand in marriage, Raoule had told Jacques: je te veux au grand jour, aprs t'avoir eu pendant nos mystrieuses nuits. Tu seras ma femme chrie comme tu as t ma matresse adore !" (Rachilde 158). Ultimately, however, their relat ionship collapses. The fluidity, fantasy, and play' of their illicit affair do not survive the shift to the rigid, gender role focused reality of marriage. Now that they are married, in public Jacques must be the husband and Raoule the wife; their private lives are taken over by the rigid conformity of these roles as well, as Raoule can only enact the role of the husband and Jacques that of the wife. In taking de Raittolbe as his lover, Jacques has embraced the stereotypic role of the wife. In order to t ransfer this position into the dynamic of their conventional' marriage Raoule must switch places with him and become the adulterous wife in his place. What this means, however, is that Raoule is thus able to punish him through a subversion of conventiona lity by making him do something conventionally masculine: fight a duel with de Raittolbe to defend his honor as the husband of an adulterous wife. For Jacques' private disgrace (as wife), he must suffer the consequences in public (as husband). Yet the iro ny of this duel is evident, in that while he is able to maintain his private role as wife' he cannot maintain his public role as husband.' Raoule is forcing him to exert a masculinity as the husband that he lacks, as it is only through this lack of mascu linity that as wife he seduced de Raittolbe and found himself in this situation to
64 begin with. Through the duel, Jacques' masculinity is put to the test and ultimately found to be lacking: "the plot reaches this disastrous apex when and because Raoule forc es Jacques abruptly into the guise of manhood, a role he is fatally unprepared to play" (Gantz 127). Jacques feels that he is being punished for being the way he is: On l'avait fait si fille dans les endroits les plus secrets de son tre, que la folie du vice pre nait les proportions du ttanos D'ailleurs ce qu'il avait os vouloir, c'tait plus naturel que ce qu'elle lui avait appris (Rachilde 204). Raoule is punishing Jacques for exerting an autonomy that she is unwilling to let him possess. By feminizing' him, she seems to have awakened in him a feminine essence that is now out of her control in seducing de Raittolbe, Jacques fulfills the destiny that Raoule has laid out for him: il est all o son destin l'appelait, il est all o j'ai prvu qu'il irait en dpit de mes caresses dmoniaques (Rachilde 169). In the phallic duel between Jacques and de Raittolbe, Jacques's masculinity is proven to be insufficient and leads to his death. De R aittolbe's masculinity, which he had previously hoped would be a positive influence on Jacques and enable him to regain a masculinity of his own, ultimately causes Jacques to die. Jacques death seems to be the inevitable outcome both of the downward spir al of Jacques and Raoule's relationship and of Raoule's need for absolute control. Once Raoule finds herself unable to exert control over Jacques and his body, Jacques is no longer useful to her for mirroring back the masculine autonomy that she projects. In choosing de Raittolbe over Raoule, Jacques has rejected Raoule's display of masculinity as insufficient. Jacques' death marks the beginning of a new project in Raoule's search for total control. Her new creation,' this time, is an automaton built from pieces of Jacques' body:
65 Sur la couche repose un mannequin de cire revtu d'un piderme en caoutchouc transparent. Les cheveux roux, les cils blonds, le duvet d'or de la poitrine sont naturels; les dents qui ornent a bouche, les ongles des mains et des pi eds ont t arrachs un cadavre La nuit, une femme vt ue de deuil, quelquefois un jeu ne homme en habit noir, ouvrent cette porte. Ils viennent s'agenouiller prs du lit, et lorsqu'ils ont longtemps contempl les formes merveilleuses de la statue de cire, ils l'enlacent, la baisent aux lvres. Un res s ort dispos l'intrieur des flancs correspond la bouche et l'anime en mme temps qu'il fait s'carter les cuisses (Rachilde 210 211) In this decadent reversal of Ovid's Pygmalion, the lover's living body becomes an object at Raoule's disposal to shape and use. Does the artificial trump the living in a perfect fulfillment of Raoule's desire, or is it a poor substitute for a human lover that reflects her fundamental insecurity? Even in her relationshi p with Jacques, Raoule's need for control and refusal of vulnerability are evident in their lovemaking: L'honnte pouse, au moment o elle se livre son honnte poux, est dans la mme position que la prostitue au moment o elle se livre son amant R aoule se vit donc au niveau de l'ancienne fille de joie et, co m me supriorit, si elle avait celle de la beaut elle n'avait pas celle du plaisir: elle en donnait, mais n'en recevait pas (Rachilde 108 109). Raoule is unwilling to make herself dependent o n Jacques, but in the end it is revealed that she needs him more than she realized. It is precisely because she needs Jacques to mirror back her identity that her
66 dominant position is ultimately one of weakness: je le ferai mon matre et il tordra mon m e sous son corps. Je l'ai achet, je lui appartiens. C'est moi qui suis vendue dmon de l'amour, tu m'as faite prisonnire, me drobant les chanes et me laissant plus libre que n'est mon gelier. J'ai cru le prendre, il s'empare de moi (Rachilde 41). T he automaton created from Jacques' body represents the absolutely negated thing of Benjamin's essay that is completely controllable but cannot ultimately serve the purpose of recognizing the subject that negates it: "a thing does not retain its identity th rough change. It can be completely consumed and destroyed by me, or it can remain unaffected. It is not able, like another subject, both to be negated by me and to recognize me" (Benjamin 151 152). Raoule's creation cannot mirror back her identity the way Jacques could it is unable to recognize her as the dominating, masculine subject and play the corresponding role of submissive, feminized object. What she longs for is impossible she cannot exert complete control over Jacques and also have him willingly ch oose to submit himself to her and thus reflect her masculine identity. Raoule's domination of the automaton reveals her unwillingness to rely on a fallible human, yet her ultimate dependence on the recognition provided by the other. Just as with Stephen Go rdon's sacrifice' of Mary in The Well of Loneliness Raoule's abandonment of Jacques demonstrates only her inability to admit her need for the recognition of others.
67 Conclusion The characters in these three novels construct representations of gender and sexuality through their clothing and behavior. Gender means something different to each of the protagonists to Stephen, gender is an elusive identity that doesn't correspond to he r physical body or the way society reads her; to Orlando, gender is not innate but a disguise that she adopts to suit her own purposes; to Raoule, gender is a performance that allows her to dominate and control others. Stephen and Raoule both experience so me degree of social isolation because of their gender identity and sexual preferences, and for Stephen this makes her search for acceptance and recognition only more crucial. Mirrors and mirroring play an important role in the construction of these protago nists' gender identities. The protagonists interact with their mirror reflections either to identify or distance themselves from the image reflected. Mirrors allow the characters to see themselves and their gendered appearance from the perspective of the other.' They likewise find their identities mirrored back to them through others, either in the form of identification and similarity with another or throu gh a recognition of difference. Each protagonist desires for her gender presentation to be read and u nderstood by others, whether this presentation is mere performance or a manifestation of core identity. These novels reveal that there is no truth' to sexed bodies and that sex and gender do not always correspond. Stephen's melancholia stems from the fac t that she wants the body she sees reflected in the mirror to reveal the truth' about herself, but it cannot. Her body is not enough to signify her masculine identity to the rest of society, even when dressed in men's clothing. Having experienced life fir st as a man and now as a woman, Orlando understands that gender is not linked to particular bodies but rather
68 constructed through interaction as others respond to her display of gender She takes advantage of her ability to disguise herself in order to pa ss as either a man or a woman, given the situation, and thus have full access to all types of experiences. Raoule performs masculinity primarily through her behavior and dominating attitude, but also at times through wearing men's clothing. She feminizes J acques in order that he mirror back her own masculinity, but when their performance of gender takes on the semblance of reality, Raoule's masculinity without maleness' is ultimately found to be lacking. The Well of Loneliness Orlando and Monsieur Vnu s are all interested in the difficulty of representing identities that defy categorization through language. The protagonists from each resist simple classification from the sexologists and psychologists of their time as well as from modern critics who attempt to label and thus limit them. Not only is their non conformity subversive, they also demonstrate an understanding of identity as complex multiple and un able to be adequately verbalized. The collapse of Raoule and Jacques' relationship occurs because they begin to impose roles and gender boundaries on themselves and because they begin to believe in the artifice of properly sexed and gendered bodies that they ha ve created. Stephen longs to be normal' and to have desires that correspond with her sex and gender in socially acceptable ways, or at least in catego rizable ways. This is ultimately why she cannot be rid of her melancholia or find happiness with Mary. Th e Well of Loneliness Orlando and Monsieur Vnus work to subvert the fictions of normative sex and gender and the idea that individuals can be labeled and thus accurately described. They achieve this by depicting the desire and ultimate impossibility of t ruthful definition, as in The Well of Loneliness and Monsieur Vnus or like Orlando they try to find new ways to represent the unrepresentable.
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