Academic journal article The Hemingway Review

"He Felt the Change So That It Hurt Him All Through": Sodomy and Transvestic Hallucination in Hemingway

Academic journal article The Hemingway Review

"He Felt the Change So That It Hurt Him All Through": Sodomy and Transvestic Hallucination in Hemingway

Article excerpt

This article calls attention to .a pattern of heterosexual sodomy in four late Hemingway texts to explain the psychological mechanics of the gender transformations experienced by the male protagonists of these novels. The article suggests that these protagonists experience a sort of bodily hallucination, for which sodomy functions as a catalyst, and which amounts to nothing less than a sort of "psychotic flash" within the context of an otherwise "perverse" psychology. The paper then uses this framework to briefly link gender to trauma theory in Hemingway studies and theorize why eroticism is so much more overt and transgressive in late, as opposed to early, Hemingway.

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EARLY IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN, soon after Catherine's first dangerous haircut, during her first transformation into "Peter" and David's first transformation into "Catherine," there are some lines which have puzzled a number of readers. As David and Catherine make love, David feels "something" and then feels Catherine's "hand holding him and searching lower and he helped with his hands and then lay back in the dark and did not think at all and only felt the weight and the strangeness inside ..." (17).

Whatever is happening here is important because it facilitates--somewhat paradoxically--both a merger of identities and a reversal of roles between lovers: "Now you can't tell who is who can you?" Catherine demands. "No," David answers. Catherine then coos, "You are changing.... Oh you are. You are. Yes you are and you're my girl Catherine. Will you change and be my girl and let me take you?" David protests, "You're Catherine;' but his wife answers, "No. I'm Peter. You're my wonderful Catherine. You're my beautiful lovely Catherine. You were so good to change. Oh thank you, Catherine, so much" (17).

A number of critics have tried to address these lines. Peter Messent notes, for instance, that "it is difficult to know precisely what physically happens here.... [And] it ... leads to a certain confusion and vagueness at a crucial moment in the text" (116). Comley and Scholes, likewise, note that Hemingway does not "provide readers graphic descriptions of the logistics of these sexual changings, leaving one befuddled critic to suggest that 'somehow, [Catherine] sodomizes [David]'" (60). This is the view taken by Debra Moddelmog, who argues that "although reviewers of the novel criticized Hemingway (or Jenks) for being elliptical in this passage, wanting specifics about the couple's actions, clearly Catherine has sodomized David. This is what is meant by 'the strangeness inside' and by Catherine's request to 'let me take you'" (69). As a variation on the theme, Rose Marie Burwell suggests that the mysterious act is "digital anal penetration" (112). (1)

Befuddled or not, I am inclined to agree with Moddelmog and Burwell; yet the passage was elliptical enough in the manuscript to elicit some unusual attention from Tom Jenks when editing the text for Scribner's. As many critics have noted, Jenks cut some key lines here which reveal that Catherine imagines her lovemaking with David as an attempt to somehow emulate the two lesbian lovers of Rodin's statue The Metamorphoses of Ovid. (2) What these critics do not mention is that, in violation of his general procedure, Jenks also added two key words to this passage: "lower" and "inside" The manuscript passage--with Jenks' interpolations included and noted--appears as follows: "He lay there and he felt something and then something that yielded and entered ^hand holding him and searching^ [Jenks adds: lower] and he helped with his hands and then lay back in the dark and did not think at all and only felt the weight and the strangeness [Jenks adds: inside] and she said, "Now you can't tell who is who can you?" (KL/EH 422.1, f1, 20). (3) Apparently, the passage as written was too cryptic for Jenks. His editing, however, does follow a certain logic. …

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