IS THE WELL OF LONELINESS A CLASSIC OF LESBIAN LITERATURE?
Radcliffe Hall's novel, The Well of Loneliness, depicts the girlhood and womanhood of a non-conventional woman, Stephen Gordon, who after assuming her natural inversion during her adolescence, fights to find a place in the world. After fulfilling partially her aspirations by serving in I World War as an ambulance driver, she falls in love with Mary, another ambulance driver, and for a short while they defy the world with their happiness. This feeling, however would not last. The invert's doom forces Stephen to the last exertion of self-denial and martyrdom when she renounces to her love for Mary and surrenders her to their common friend Martin to take care of her because she, not being a man, would never be able to give her an authentic life.
Nowadays, the novel is considered and sold as a lesbian literature classic throughout the world but for certain public it is not clear whether the characteristics and themes included qualify it as such or it is just a matter of popularity. In its favour it is necessary to consider it as an early precursor of any kind of declared lesbian literature (it was published in 1928). It was one of the first times that lesbian love was depicted extensively by means of a novel and it was an incredibly brave and honest attempt to bring daylight into the darkness of so many people's life. One of the individual but essential steps lesbians were giving towards social recognition. Society's response was simply considering its mere existence outrageous so that its publication was banished in the UK for nearly 20 years. On the other hand, some of the issues the novel raises can not be conceived to be part of a work that made an impression such as The Well of Loneliness is renowned to have made. The author purpose, as she openly recognized, was showing a sympathetic portrait of the "congenital invert," one that would show the full humanity and suffering of women like herself....
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