An aspect of Giovanni’s Room that is of particular interest to me was the characters that Baldwin introduces to highlight particular aspects of David’s character. One such character is Sue, seen in part 2 chapter 2, with whom David has sex and acts as a foil for how David deals with his sexuality. They share the attribute of gender norm deviance, specifically David’s homosexual relationships and Sue’s less feminine gender expression. Where they most significantly differ though is how they express their gender deviance. David reacts mostly with shame, while Sue proudly displays her differences by her appearance of “hair cut very short,” “always wore tight blue jeans,” all “in order … to indicate how little she cared for appearance or sensuality” (95). Even in their discussion of personal discovery, she urges David that he “can’t just go on being a brick stone wall forever” (97).
However, despite her confidence in her sexual expression, they both perform sex out of spite for a lover (either past or present). David does it to discredit the homosexuality in himself, based on his shame of his relation with Giovanni, while Sue does it “giving herself, not to [David], but to that lover who would never come” (99). The motives of these characters also interesting contrast with Molly of Rubyfruit Jungle. Molly would often have sex to defy the norms of heterosexuality and her upbringings; David however regrets of same-sex relations because of the deviance from the norm. Additionally, Molly feels power from sex, while David feels weak from giving into lust.
- What other ways does David defy gender norms, outside of his homosexual relationships?
- In terms of relationships and sex, what other differences do David and Molly show? Any similarities?