This thesis seeks to explore the concepts of masculinity and homosexuality as literary themes in Gore Vidal’s The City and the Pillar (1948) and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room (1956). In both novels we meet protagonists who are struggling with how they are to understand themselves as men in the American post-World War II era. This is primarily based on how their homosexual orientation separates them from the concept of an ideal masculine manhood. Both men are in danger of being categorized as “abnormal” by society on basis of their “otherness” as men. The complicating factor, however, is that they as gendered masculine men also are considered something “other” inside the homosexual community, i.e. both Jim Willard and David are in essence “abnormal” “abnormalities.” I will argue that this paradox opens up for an understanding of the concepts of manhood and masculinity as something fluent rather than fixed, and furthermore that it also suggest an understanding of a possible reinvention of the categories of gender and sexuality inside the two works. Even though much has been written on the two novels in a general aspect, an analysis focused primarily on the protagonists’ status as men has not been done before.
Through a textual analysis in a comparative aspect, this thesis will focus mainly on the two protagonists, Jim Willard and David respectively, and analyze how they function inside this gender/sexuality paradigm in the novels. There will also some focus on the most prominent supporting characters, as these are important both in representations of the issues at hand in their communication and interaction with the protagonists.