Tolkien Paper

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Tolkien Paper

Post by Tinuviel on Thu Nov 21, 2013 7:02 pm

I'm thinking of analyzing LOTR for my literary theory class's final. What this is is a connection to a reading I had to make a study guide for. The article talks about homosocial desire. It says how there's a split between men loving men and men promoting the interests of men. There isn't a split for women. The author (Sedgwick) says it's because today's society is homophobic, and homosocial relationships are the same as homosexual relationships for men. I explained how LOTR shows that there doesn't need to be a split men loving men and men promoting the interests of men through the perceived gay relationships of the hobbits.

In reading J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, one immediately notices the rather feminine qualities portrayed by the Hobbits. They are not manly in today’s definition of masculinity, but were perhaps in Tolkien’s time when he wrote the books. In having a feminine male character be the hero of his story, Tolkien shows the continuum between men-loving-men and men-promoting-the-interests-of-men.
Frodo Baggins, the hero of the story, is not the hero patriarchal society would deem worthy of the task of carrying the Ring to Mordor. Frodo is small, weak, soft-hearted, and prefers the comforts of home to brave acts and war. He is surrounded by others in the Fellowship who, by today’s standards, are the strongest in society and therefore should be able to handle the power of the Ring. However, Tolkien is making the argument that masculine strength is not the greatest strength there is, rather loyalty and friendship are stronger. Frodo’s loyal servant, Sam, proves to be stronger than even Frodo because he refuses the Ring’s power and thinks only of saving his master. This seems similar to Sedgwick’s description of Greek Homosexuality, only the relationship here is not mentor and apprentice but master and servant (more particularly his gardener—a job with feminine connotation). Frodo and Sam love each other in a way that is devoid of desire, therefore being a strictly homosocial relationship. Through this love, they achieve their ultimate goal of destroying the ring.
The relationships between all the members of the Fellowship comes off as slightly gay in today’s society because they are far more intimate than relationships between men today are. When Tolkien originally wrote The Lord of the Rings, he was fighting in the trenches of World War I. The bonds he formed with his fellow soldiers (many of whom were his boyhood friends) were strong and emotional. They were young men away from home in hellish conditions. The friendships they formed with their fellow soldiers were thicker than blood, so naturally those feelings were transcribed into the books. The fellowship is a group of men who are bound by friendship and mutually help each other to achieve their goals. Legolas and Gimli help Aragorn take his place as the Kind of Gondor. Sam watches over Frodo and makes sure that they achieve their goal. In the end of The Return of the King, Frodo is leaving Middle Earth, and kisses each of his friends goodbye. Today, that is immediately seen as feminine and gay, for a kiss now has a strictly sexual meaning. Again, the hobbits are showing their love homosocially, not homosexually. This mistake would only be made in today’s society, for a century ago a kiss signified respect and love for another person, not a lustful desire for them. This is again why Sedgwick removes love from desire, for they do not mean the same thing, though today we think they do.

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Re: Tolkien Paper

Post by halfwise on Thu Nov 21, 2013 7:41 pm

I think men in the victorian era that just preceded Tolkien's were somewhat afraid of women: had defined them into being almost alien creatures so had no idea how to interact with them socially.  Hence the stronger male-male friendships than today. Plus homosexuality was barely acknowledged as existing, so the barriers mentioned above were not much in the picture.

And I imagine women during this era, simultaneously placed on a pedestal while treated as helpless objects, spent much of their time sitting around saying "what the fuck?" to themselves.

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Re: Tolkien Paper

Post by Pettytyrant101 on Thu Nov 21, 2013 8:17 pm

It goes further back than the Victorians however Halfy- the Renaissance period saw male friends writing to one another of how much they missed and loved them in a manner which to the modern eye reads like a male to female love letter.


In my own experience I would say modern men are just as capable of forming those sort of very close loving but in no way sexual relationships with other males. The public show of it might have altered in substance and style but the ability of men to form exceptionally close non sexual relationships with other men I do not think has changed, merely become less obvious and less reflected in wider society.

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