Going Native: White Masculinity, Colonial Panic, and the Threat of Homosexuality in William Golding's Lord of the Flies

David Agruss (Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA)

This paper seeks to theorize the relationships between masculinity, homosexuality, savagery, civilization, and boyhood in William Golding's Lord of the Flies, relationships which help to reveal the stakes not only in the production of normative white heterosexual masculine men but also in the production of civilized British subjects in the face of Britain's "savage" colonial Empire. In late nineteenth century Britain, an enforced boyhood culture of masculinity attempted not only to ensure the seamless production of masculine heterosexual men from the raw material of boys, but also to act as an antidote to the threateningly feminizing effects of British civilization, culture, and education. Gelding's novel destabilises this worship of masculinity, however, by pointing toward a "new" source of potential male homosexuality: homosexuality grounded not in boyhood effeminacy but instead in boyhood hypermasculinity. Through a spiralling narrative in which proper British boys degenerate into colonial savages, Golding's tropical island thus becomes a space in which civilized heterosexuality is pushed to its savage breaking point, a space in which homosexual panics can be both incited and pleasurably contained. The end of the novel thus reveals that the only way for civilization to control the savage homosexual interiors supposedly lurking inside all boys is through the colonizing forces of discipline enacted by British adults on their own children figured as colonial subjects.

Postcolonial OV discourseov Casablanca Conference

Last modified: 7 May 2001