Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Thornton Wilder

THORNTON WILDER (1897-1975): A Note

Throughout his career Thornton Wilder had ample opportunity, in such novels as The Cabala (1926) and Theophilus North (1973), to portray homosexual characters without giving himself away, but he seems continually to have sidestepped it.  Both of these novels are brimming with people who think and behave in eccentric and non-conformist ways.  Many of them are rich enough for the disapproval of others not to make any difference.  Even if they inhabit milieux in which marriage is expected of the respectable, few of the marriages portrayed are actually as stable or respectable as they have to seem.  The absence of any sign of even bisexual desires, let alone homosexual actions or relationships, itself comes to seem perverse.  Wilder’s cumulative silences on this theme are thunderous.  While even the most fearful gay authors have managed by sleight-of-hand to indulge their interest in people like themselves, Wilder, in contrast, seems to be acting not in fear but with a deliberate and proud refusal to be forced to write about a topic he chooses to ignore.  In certain moods it is possible to respect him for it.

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