In the early twentieth century there was no definition of homosexuality because there was no law that can validate homosexual desires. Homosexuality was considered as a factor that does not stabilize the social masculine identity especially in an era where men thought of as powerful and dominant in the society: the patriarchal society. Thus, the fear of expressing their homosexuality and of the accusation of having feminine characteristics was prevalent among young men. Men should be restrained and refrained from such characteristics so they can be labeled men in the masculine world. Such a system in the British society equilibrates femininity to homosexuality as both were thought of as a threat of emasculating the society: that is men’s home. Despite the fact that there were more homosexual men than women before passing the law in 1971, the sexual offenses Act rescinded the illegality of homosexuality in the British society, images of sympathy for women alongside the internalized pressure and the unspeakable desires are shown in E. M. Forster’s significant novel Maurice. As a literary work had written in 1912, but was published posthumously in 1971, Maurice expresses the power that society deploys to assert control over both homosexual and women. Moreover, it depicts their inner conflict of achieving their self-actualization.
Throughout a close reading of Maurice, I argue that there is an intentional balance between homosexuals and women’s situation in the British society at that time where both homosexual and women are marginalized and lost their identity within the society. I suggest that Maurice is a feminist critique of marriage and lack of women’s sexual education from a homosexual perspective as it depicts both women and men homosexual struggle in a repressive society. Therefore, an intersection between the repression of sexuality and gender roles is established in the novel’s plot.
In order to register the conflict in the novel, one must articulate the difference between men and female sexual awareness in the novel. Hellenism, the study of ancient Greek, plays an important part in male characters’ development. With this study sexual freedom thought, Clive introduces Hellenism to Maurice as it sets Maurice’s self-awareness and sexual liberation. Hellenism that is represented in Plato’s Symposium influences Maurice’s self-development in the novel and also suggests the discourse that is not displayed to women. It suggests a contradiction to the basic education given to young girls and boys at that time. Since Clive educates Maurice sexually, Mr. Ducie, however, teaches him the rules of the English society.
It is evident in the novel that Maurice as a young boy is confined in the masculine world that he should embrace. He is described as a “plump, pretty lad, not in anyway remarkable” (11). In order to educate him of the compulsory heterosexuality, Mr. Ducie, his teacher, illustrates the definition of sexuality and marriage as a way...