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"It may be that there is no place for any of us": homosexuality, communism, and the politics of nostalgia in Capote's The Grass Harp.

AS CHILDREN IN RURAL ALABAMA, TRUMAN CAPOTE AND NELLE HARPER Lee often escaped to the tree house in her backyard, climbing up the chocolate-colored bark and disappearing for hours at a time. This place, biographer Gerald Clarke notes, "became their fortress against the world, a leafy refuge where they read and acted out scenes from their favorite books" (22). The young Capote not only needed respite from town bullies but also from lingering doubts about his parents' affection. Neither Lillie Mae Faulk nor Arch Persons had much interest in parenthood. The couple spent more time apart than together during their marriage and when they did travel as a family, Lillie Mae and Arch had no scruples about locking their son in a hotel room (sometimes a dark closet) for the evening. They simply instructed the staff to ignore the boy as he screamed himself hoarse. Capote developed a fear that his parents would abandon him and in the summer of 1930, they did. Just before his sixth birthday, Capote found himself not in a hotel closet but on the front porch of Lillie Mae's relatives in Monroeville. His parents were moments away from leaving him and pursuing their own separate dreams of financial success.

Jennie, Callie, and Nanny Rumbley ("Sook") Faulk became the boy's family for the next two years; along with Harper Lee's tree house, they would inspire a number of his works, including The Grass Harp (1951). Jennie, a successful businesswoman with an exacting personality, owned a lucrative hat shop that sold a variety of women's goods, and her sister, Callie, managed the store's finances. While these sisters quarreled regularly over professional and personal matters, Sook kept to herself. She did not work outside the home, but twice a year she ventured into the nearby forest to scavenge ingredients for her dropsy cure and Christmas fruitcakes. Two African American women, "Aunt" Liza and the cantankerous Anna Stabler, also spent a great deal of time at the Faulk house as hired help. Amid this eccentric household, it is no wonder that Capote discovered his calling as a writer. (1)

Though The Grass Harp begins as a nostalgic meditation on self-discovery and love, it gradually becomes a cautionary tale about the dangers of social conformity and materialism. The narrative opens with the protagonist, Collin Fenwick, recalling his teenage years with the Talbo family. Verena, a composite of Jennie and Callie Faulk, is matriarch of the house and arguably the town. Her successful businesses have made her its wealthiest inhabitant, and she has clearly used this money to influence local politics. Dolly, "a delicate happening" (11) and clear stand-in for Sook, possesses a childlike innocence, a quality Capote emphasizes through her passion for the color pink and sweets. Her closest friend, Catherine Creek, claims to be Indian (instead of African American), has no teeth (rendering her speech virtually indecipherable), and possesses a truculent nature (as illustrated by her fearless resistance to whites). She also lives in a shed on the property, making Capote's homage to Anna unmistakable. (2) The central conflict involves Dolly's dropsy cure, an enigmatic gypsy medicine that she brews once a year in the backyard and sells to mail-order customers throughout the state. Once Verena realizes its potential profitability, she decides to mass market the product. She purchases an abandoned factory, gets involved with a shady business partner named Morris Ritz, and demands that Dolly disclose her secret formula in order to begin production. Dolly refuses, and later that night she runs away with Collin and Catherine to take up residence in a nearby tree house on the outskirts of town. This setting links their arboreal retreat to the central image of the novel: the grass harp. To get to the tree, the group must walk through the high Indian grasses that sing in the wind--grasses that remember the lives of the dead and whisper their stories like notes strummed on a harp. Two others join their escapade: a tough, free-spirited teenager named Riley Henderson and the philosophical Charlie Cool, a retired judge. The tree becomes a place where the group abandons social mores: they smoke, drink, and tell stories late into the night. Most importantly, they reveal hidden truths about themselves here. It becomes a space where, as Judge Cool explains, "five fools in a tree.... [are] free to find out who [they] truly are" (41). Meanwhile, Morris Ritz proves to be a con man, stealing thousands of dollars from Verena and skipping town. After discovering the extent of her losses, Verena turns her attention to Dolly, and she commands the sheriff to remove the tree dwellers by force. When the police and an armed posse approach the tree at the end of the novel, the ensuing melee concludes with a shooting of Riley that shatters his shoulder and renders him unconscious. The remaining mavericks descend from the chinaberry tree and resume a mundane existence in town. Dolly gives up her burgeoning romance with Judge Cool to reclaim her pink room and dies shortly thereafter from a stroke. Riley, who has previously admitted his emotional detachment from girls, gets married and becomes a prominent figure in the community. Collin abandons his deepening affection for Riley and leaves town to pursue a law degree. As an adult reflecting on his childhood, however, it seems clear that his place in the establishment has brought him neither happiness nor a sense of belonging.

Like many Jazz Age expatriates, Capote often wrote his best work about American life when he was overseas; he composed this novel between June 1950 and May 1951 in Taormina, Sicily. He may have been thousands of miles away from his beloved New York, which he once referred to as a "diamond iceberg" (Portraits 8), but he never lost touch with the happenings at home. He corresponded daily with friends. He read several US newspapers every afternoon; (3) years later his nonfiction novel, In Cold Blood, would be inspired by a New York Times article on the murder of a Kansas family. Despite the charming humor of The Grass Harp, Capote admitted to his editor at Random House that there was something painful about writing it: "Satisfying as, in that sense, it is, it keeps me in a painful emotional state: memories are always breaking my heart, I cry--it is very odd, I seem to have no control over myself or what I am doing" (Clarke 219). Some of the pain must have stemmed from memories of his childhood abandonment. Even after Lillie Mae sent for him in 1932 to join her in New York, she continued a pattern of emotional abuse. (4) Preoccupied with her recent marriage to Joseph Garcia Capote and the active society life that her husband's income as a Wall Street broker enabled, she lavished most of her affection on Joe. Not only was she in love with him, but she was also ashamed of and repelled by Truman's effeminacy. In fact, she would terminate two pregnancies with Joe because she refused to have another child like Truman. Her behavior stemmed from a fear that Truman was becoming a homosexual. She tried desperately to prevent this, taking him to numerous psychiatrists and sending him to a military academy in 1936 (just before his twelfth birthday). After a disastrous year of being verbally and sexually abused by other cadets, he returned to the city and resumed his studies at an elite private school on the Upper West Side. His mother, however, remained vigilant in her disapproval. She ridiculed him publicly and privately, calling him a "fairy," a "pansy," and a "monster." She even set up an appointment with a doctor to give her son male hormone shots (Clarke 62-63).

Capote's nostalgic impulse to revisit his childhood in The Grass Harp, instead of continuing with his novel about contemporary New York life, (5) can be seen as a reaction against the cultural climate of the Cold War in 1950. A closer look at his correspondence from this period reveals Capote's anxieties about the growing tensions over territorial control and political influence in Europe. On July 6, 1950, less than two weeks after the start of the Korean War, Capote writes to his friend Andrew Lyndon:
   Simply can't work this morning: across the hill they are having
   some sort of military maneuvers--much bullet fire etc. When it
   began we thought it was the Russians. And so have been thinking
   about the Russians ever since. No one here seems to feel there is
   going to be a big war; actually, they don't care--are really
   apathetic. We get our news here so late; I have no idea what is
   happening. Oh, the thought of a wartime America! I hope you will
   have the good sense to stay out of uniform this time. (Letters) (6)


In fact, fears about another global conflict worried Capote throughout his time in Sicily, impacting his work on The Grass Harp-, a few months later, he complains that "What with war at the window and a river of lava at the door, it has been impossible to concentrate.... I suppose by this time the Russians have reached Messina: we never see any news except week-old issues of Time. I wonder really what we should do. I hate at this point to think of coming home" (Letters, dated December 15, 1950). While this notion of Russian-occupied Messina reflects Capote's cynical humor about American hysteria at the time, it also stems from legitimate fears regarding the Cold War. Capote repeatedly frets about leaving Italy early: "Actually I don't think the war is going to start searing a path through Europe for another year or two, but even so I guess it is foolhardy to stay here beyond the spring" (Letters, dated January 1951). These reservations about coming home might be attributed, in part, to the cultural climate in the United States. The maniacal efforts of McCarthyism to persecute communists at home included vicious, public attacks on homosexuality, and these attitudes were undoubtedly an affront to Capote's identity.

This is not to suggest that Capote viewed himself as a political activist; he frequently described himself as apolitical. In a 1967 interview with Gloria Steinem, for example, Capote stated: "I'm not a political person at all. Everything with me is extremely personal. Vietnam involves me emotionally, but not politically" (Inge 103). Yet such statements are typically followed by socio-cultural criticism on his part. In this case, Capote goes on to condemn segregation and to recount his childhood experiences with African Americans. Such mixed messages were quite common from a man who made an art out of contradicting himself and misrepresenting his life and work. As he once remarked, "I don't care what anybody says about me as long as it isn't true" (Inge 178). Certainly, Capote did not want to be a political writer at a time when producing such work was dangerous in America (the jailing of Hollywood screenwriters began in 1950), but an overt political agenda also ran counter to his professional goals. He wanted to reach the widest possible audience. He wanted to be famous. Nevertheless, his art reveals an acute eye for the Zeitgeist of the period, and the popularity of The Grass Harp suggests that the text resonated with a nostalgic desire among Americans to climb into a tree high above the pervasive fears and realities of the Cold War. Placed in the historical context of 1950, this enchanting coming-of-age story becomes something far more radical in its call for social reform.

Fear of another world war and economic depression intensified in post-World War II America with what appeared to be the rising communist threat. The Soviet Union tested an atomic bomb on September 3, 1949, an event that made the prospect of a nuclear conflict seem inevitable to most. (7) As Elaine Tyler May notes, a 1950 poll showed that more than sixty percent of Americans believed that the United States should use atomic weapons in a future war. Furthermore, "53 percent believed there was a good or fair chance that their community would be bombed in the next war, and nearly three-fourths assumed that American cities would be bombed. Most agreed that since Russia now had the bomb, the likelihood of another war increased" (25). Senator Joseph R. McCarthy only made matters worse in a February 9, 1950 speech to the Republican Women's Club in Wheeling, West Virginia, in which he accused 205 State Department employees of being communists. Not much time passed before a political cartoonist for the Washington Post labeled McCarthy's reckless fear-mongering "McCarthyism" (Doherty 14); this term would inextricably link the Senator's name to the hysteria surrounding the communist threat in the aftermath of World War II. In June of that same year, Julius Rosenberg was arrested for espionage, and by the end of the month, President Harry S. Truman sent troops to Korea, beginning a proxy war with the Soviets that lasted three years and killed 2.5 million people. This conflict remained at the forefront of public consciousness through daily newspaper reports, radio broadcasts, newsreels, and televised news (Doherty 7).

Capote, like most Americans at the time, followed this news with increasing angst, no doubt, and as an openly gay man he must have been particularly concerned by the overt link between homosexuality and communism. In the wake of the Alger Hiss affair (in which the man accusing him of espionage was widely characterized as his jilted gay lover) and the shocking findings of the Kinsey report on male sexuality, the vilification of homosexuals was not surprising. When placed against this backdrop, the nostalgic sentiment and pastoral setting of The Grass Warp carries a complex socio-cultural critique. As Douglas T. Miller and Marion Nowak argue in The Fifties: The Way We Really Were, nostalgia comes from discontent, from a desire to escape the crises of the present by imagining another time as better. The seeming idealization of the past and of rural life in The Grass Harp captures this Cold War era disillusionment, tapping into a yearning among Americans to establish a stable identity in a past undisturbed by the threat of nuclear weapons and homosexuality. Despite the novel's failure to provide an alternate way of achieving lasting happiness in the present, it does highlight the dangers of conformity and presents a serious call for reform. It points to the corrosive nature of rumor and innuendo, portrays human sexuality as complex, and argues for the importance of civil rights and social acceptance. In these ways, Capote uses the characters' ultimate capitulation to the establishment to condemn the conformist, homophobic values of 1950 America and the methods used to enforce them.

Capote, Critics, and the Literary Canon

The Grass Harp has received little critical attention and it has never been discussed as a novel about McCarthy-era repression. This is due, in part, to the tendency among scholars to view Capote's fiction as removed from contemporary political and social issues. Such an approach may also explain why his fiction is rarely anthologized and taught in college courses. Even his most famous book, In Cold Blood, holds a rather ambiguous place in the academy. In 2009, Harold Bloom assembled a new volume of criticism on Truman Capote; his introductory note reiterates his concern over the "survival possibilities of Capote's work" (vii). He goes on to question whether or not In Cold Blood "deserves canonical status" (2) and suggests that comparing Capote to contemporary writers only exacerbates the problem. Flannery O'Connor "dwarfs poor Capote" (vii), Bloom laments, and he cites my essay on Capote and Carson McCullers as an example of that risk. Though I would argue that exploring the intersection between different literary works enhances our understanding of them (Capote can enrich readings of O'Connor just as she can illuminate elements of his work), this kind of scholarship has not solved the problem of Capote's place in the academy. Given Capote's status (then and now) as a well-known literary and cultural figure, how can we explain his precarious position in the canon?

Two types of criticism that continue to influence Capote scholarship--biographical and work characterizing his style as either "daylight" or "nocturnal"--have contributed to the perception of Capote's writing as removed from sociopolitical concerns. Capote, the man, remains a larger-than-life figure. Recent films like Capote (2005) and Infamous (2006) point to an ongoing fascination with his life, particularly in regard to In Cold Blood, such interest in the man has tended to push aside efforts to contextualize his work historically. People still seem far more interested in Capote's relationships with Jacqueline Kennedy, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe, and Andy Warhol, for example, than in his fiction. Likewise, scholarship that divides Capote's work into two styles ("daylight" and "nocturnal") has had the effect of encouraging readers to approach the former with less scrutiny. The "daylight stories," as Paul Levine explained in 1958, are preoccupied with
   surfaces, the interest and humor deriving from the situation and
   the action In the nocturnal stories the hero is forced to come to
   grips with the destructive element--the power of blackness which
   resides in each of us. The confrontation of the psyche leads to the
   exposure of the constructive and destructive elements: the wish for
   death and the wish for life. (83-84) (8)


While this dichotomy has provided a helpful framework for understanding certain elements of Capote's fiction, its characterization of "daylight" stories as superficial (or invested in "surfaces") has contributed to our view of these works as apolitical. This has certainly been the case with The Grass Harp.

Even though queer theory and Southern literary studies would seem to provide logical approaches for reexamining Capote, these fields have traditionally had a conflicted relationship with his work. Queer theory has been reluctant to engage with Capote because of his sexual politics. As Peter G. Christensen explains, "Capote's apparent indifference to gay liberation has ... lost him potentially sympathetic critics in the highly visible field of gay and queer studies" ("Major" 222). This lack of critical attention comes in large part from the way Capote depicts homosexuality. The author, according to Christensen, seems "unable even at a later date to imagine a story in which the love of two adult men would lead to mutual salvation or even help" ("Capote" 63). It is understandable, then, that queer theorists would be concerned with the absence of physical intimacy between men in Capote's fiction. Gary Richards, however, has recently examined homosexual desire in Other Voices, Other Rooms and the homophobic response to the book. He notes that Capote tends to equate "gender transitivity and homosexuality" (33) and that physical sex between men remains absent from his works. Nevertheless, Richards situates Capote within queer discourse in fruitful ways that should encourage scholars to revisit the depiction of sexuality in Capote's fiction. One could also argue that Capote lost potential allies within Southern literary studies for distancing himself from the label "Southern writer." As he explained in a 1964 interview, "I, personally, have never thought of myself as a writer regionally oriented.... Now, of course, the South is so far behind me that it has ceased to furnish me with subject matter" (Inge 42-43). This has not prevented insightful criticism about Capote's relationship with other Southern contemporaries, but for the most part, Southern Literary Studies has focused on Capote's use of gothic conventions. From J. Douglas Perry's seminal essay "Gothic as Vortex: The Form of Horror in Capote, Faulkner, and Styron" to scholarship exploring the relationship between gothic and camp in Other Voices, Other Rooms, (9) these works have enriched our understanding of Capote's first novel but do not provide a critical framework for much of his other fiction.

In many respects, my intention here is to place Capote in dialogue with American studies as an act of recuperation, an attempt to provide a new direction for Capote studies that can bring him back into the classroom and the literary canon. (10) Reading The Grass Harp in the context of 1950s America not only enriches one's understanding of the work but also helps readers appreciate the politics of the book. Such a reading aligns with Linda Wagner-Martin's assertions about the "new fiction" of the 1940s:
   Such writers as Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Carson McCullers, and
   other southerners ... may have been alienated from mainstream
   culture because of sexual preference or agnosticism. For whatever
   biographical reasons, their fiction during the 1940s and 1950s
   created a new category of American letters--that of the minority
   viewpoint (though white), the literature of the anti-dream.
   Expressing themselves in nonrealistic, or at least unconventionally
   structured, works, these newer writers insisted on the dreamlike
   (or, sometimes, hallucinatory) quality of much human experience. At
   their most ephemeral, novels by these visionary if fragile writers
   were written to disguise the narratives being conveyed. (83-84)


Though Wagner-Martin focuses on Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms, the setting of the tree house in The Grass Harp--as a space of magical possibility, of resistance, and of identity (re)formation--gives this novel a dreamlike quality as well, and the anti-American Dream motif emerges as the characters capitulate to mainstream society. More importantly, the disguised narrative in The Grass Harp involves Capote's condemnation of McCarthyism's attack on nonconformity, particularly in regards to sexuality. Capote's decision to explore characters who are never explicitly identified as gay or bisexual alludes to the suppression and silencing of homosexuality at the time. In this way, the novel is a poignant response to contemporary anxieties and the persecution of homosexuality in 1950. Perhaps this is why Capote claimed a few years later that " The Grass Harp is the only true thing I ever wrote" (Inge 30). It is not disconnected from social and political concerns. Instead, it demands social change by exposing the insidious impact of suppression in American culture.

The Homosexual Menace: "Perversion," Subversion, and the Lavender Scare

"If you want to be against McCarthy, boys," the Wisconsin Senator once told two reporters, "you've got to be a Communist or a cocksucker" (Halberstam 54). This comment stemmed from the belief, as he explained in his 1952 monograph McCarthyism: The Fight for America, that "espionage agents often have been successful in extorting information from [homosexuals] by threatening to expose their abnormal habits" (15). Ironically enough, McCarthy has been given too much credit for McCarthyism and its demonization of homosexuality. His hearings into communist subversion tend to be associated with the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC); but McCarthy, who chaired the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, did not play a formal role in these Congressional investigations. Nor did he participate in hearings that targeted homosexuals. As a middle-aged, unmarried man, he most likely recused himself to prevent any questions about his own sexuality. Regardless of the reason, the attention given to McCarthy (in most historical studies of the era and in the popular imagination) has tended, as David K. Johnson argues, "to keep the antigay purges in the shadows" (4). The formation of HUAC in 1938 gave the government a powerful mechanism for enforcing social and political conformity, and the Committee wasted no time questioning the patriotic loyalty of over 1,400 groups and people--including newspapers, labor unions, the Boy Scouts, Shirley Temple, and homosexuals (Miller and Nowak 25). Nine years later, HUAC turned its attention to the subversive content of film and television, and its members questioned dozens of Hollywood writers, directors, actors, and producers. When they posed what became known as the $64 question to Ring Lardner, Jr. ("Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Communist Party?"), for instance, he replied: "I could answer it, but if I did, I would hate myself in the morning" (Doherty 21, 22). Yet another important question emerged during the Congressional investigations of the postwar era: "Information has come to the attention of the Civil Service Commission that you are a homosexual. What comment do you care to make?" (Johnson 5). This implied link between communism and homosexuality became increasingly explicit, however, and by the time Capote was writing The Grass Harp, most Americans viewed both groups as dangerous threats to the country.

The State Department played a prominent role in the public's perception of homosexuals as security risks. In 1947, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed a bill giving the Secretary of State power to dismiss any government employee in the name of national security. Based on the Committee's recommendations, the State Department began issuing annual security checks for its workforce to target two groups: 1) communists (and others committing espionage) and 2) people with a history of "habitual drunkenness, sexual perversion, moral turpitude, financial irresponsibility or criminal record." (11) The latter, primarily aimed at homosexuals, inspired other government agencies to follow suit. Such practices and news about the people who lost their jobs received considerable attention in the national media. (12) Between 1947 and 1950, 574 federal employees were accused of sexual perversion; 420 lost their jobs, either through resignation or termination; 121 of them worked for the State Department (Terry 342-43). Likewise, the homosexual scandal surrounding HUAC's 1948 investigation of Alger Hiss, (13) a former State Department employee, reinforced the impression that a sinister connection existed between homosexuals and communists.

While McCarthy did not spearhead the demonization of homosexuals, he certainly encouraged it. His inflammatory accusations in Wheeling, West Virginia, required some kind of response from the State Department, and Deputy Undersecretary John Peurifoy's subsequent remarks stoked the fire. He rejected the claim that communists worked in the State Department but admitted that ninety- one homosexuals--all considered security risks--were forced out. Suddenly, McCarthy's "list" achieved validity (at least for the public), and it had the effect of starting the Lavender Scare--a heated national debate about homosexuality and a concerted political effort to remove thousands of gays and lesbians from government service. As Johnson explains in The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government, Peurifoy's revelation, along with McCarthy's initial claims, "unleashed a flurry of newspaper columns, constituent mail, public debate, and congressional investigations throughout 1950 about the presence of homosexuals in government and their connections to Communists" (18). Although McCarthy continued to make exaggerated, false, and uninformed claims about these connections, he wasn't the only one with a flair for misinformation and shameless self-promotion. Just a few weeks after Peurifoy's admission, Roy Blick, a Lieutenant in the Washington, DC, vice squad, testified before a congressional committee that 5,000 homosexuals lived in the nation's capital and 3,750 of them held government jobs. A media frenzy followed these baseless allegations as journalists, politicians, and other public figures repeated these numbers and further amplified the supposed threat posed by homosexuals (Johnson 79-87). By the summer of 1950, the climate in the country was such that many people would have agreed with the sentiments of Senator Kenneth Wherry, who stated in a July interview with the New York Post. "You can't hardly separate homosexuals from subversives.... Mind you, I don't say every homosexual is a subversive, and I don't say every subversive is a homosexual. But a man of low morality is a menace in the government, whatever he is, and they are all tied up together" (Terry 341).

The brewing scandal led to a Senate subcommittee investigation "into the employment by the Government of homosexuals and other sex perverts"; their findings were published in December 1950. The subcommittee, chaired by Senator Clyde Hoey, concluded that homosexuals should be excluded from government service for their questionable morality, which allows gays and lesbians to indulge in perverted sexual acts, for their ability to "entice normal individuals to engage in perverted practices," and for their susceptibility to blackmail (US Senate 241, 244). (14) The subcommittee could find almost no evidence to support this claim, so it relied heavily on Alfred Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) to justify its position. Based on over 5,000 interviews, Kinsey's study revealed that forty-six percent of men had engaged in homosexual behavior, and thirty-seven percent had achieved orgasm through homosexual contact, a number that increased to fifty percent for men who did not marry before the age of thirty-five (Reumann 21, 165). Not only were these statistics receiving renewed attention in the wake of Peurifoy's and Blick's comments, but several months earlier Kinsey had also testified before the California Subcommittee on Sex Crimes that homosexuality could not be cured through psychiatric therapy (Terry 327). Many conservatives interpreted Kinsey's data as evidence that homosexuality posed a threat to traditional American values as embodied in the nuclear family. In the context of the Senate subcommittee's report, this data was being manipulated yet again to argue that homosexuality presented an immediate danger to American institutions. The report, along with public perception that the State Department was a hotbed of sexual perversion, led to the government's aggressive persecution of homosexuals, persecution that John D'Emilio describes as a tightening "web of oppression" that included FBI surveillance, mail tampering, discharges from the military, and, of course, dismissals (60).

The feverish anti-homosexual campaigns of 1950 cast gays as fundamentally disloyal, immoral, criminal, and un-American. Even the language used to justify their legal persecution--such as the term "pervert"--helped encourage a sweeping denigration of homosexuals in American culture. These campaigns also issued a tacit mandate for conformity. Trustworthy citizens, in other words, got married, had children, and lived an outwardly conventional (heterosexual) lifestyle. In this environment, homosexuals had no choice but to live in secret. "To escape the status of pariah," May explains, "many gay men and lesbians locked themselves in the stifling closet of conformity, hiding their sexual identities and passing as heterosexuals. As one lesbian recalled, 'It has never been easy to be a lesbian in this country, but the 1950s was surely the worst decade in which to love your own sex'" (13). In this oppressive climate, it isn't difficult to understand why Capote might feel overcome by nostalgia for a time and place (small town America) that he could construct as potentially accepting. On one level, Capote achieves his critique of contemporary America through the novel's assault on conformity, its condemnation of the legal system, and the portrayal of all sexuality as natural. On another level, the characters' acquiescence to the conforming establishment contains a damning message as well. Each of these characters resists the social trends being enforced in 1950, but Capote suggests that such a resistance cannot last. The nostalgia of the novel proves to be as illusory as the acceptance of sexual and racial difference in contemporary America. At one moment, Collin weeps at the thought that "So little, once it has changed, changes back" (60), and Capote's ultimate fear--and the warning offered by the novel--is that the changing national attitude about homosexuality could be irrevocable.

Gossip, Sexuality, and Conformity in The Grass Harp

Capote announces his indictment of the hearsay characterizing the start of the McCarthy era through the role of gossip in The Grass Harp. Early in the book, Collin claims that "Anyone could have told you the facts" (26), but these "facts" mostly come from suppositions that get repeated often enough to be accepted as truth. In his account of the day Riley saved his sisters from being drowned by their mother, for instance, Collin states: "it was said that Riley broke the door down with a hatchet, which seems a tall order for a boy of nine or ten, whatever he was" (26). The passive construction of this sentence casts doubt on the veracity of the story and raises questions about all of the anecdotes in the book. The biography of Judge Cool's wife includes the caveat "all that I repeat comes second-hand" (35), and Maude announces that Collin has a reputation for "Fibbing" (54). Capote's point, in part, is that people's private lives are private and that to know the complete truth is impossible. He also suggests that no story, no claim can be understood apart from the biases of the teller.

Two types of gossip emerge as particularly dangerous in The Grass Harp, the kind associated with public exposure/persecution and the kind encouraging self-suppression. The threat of public exposure certainly haunts Judge Cool, whose sons care far more about taking possession of their father's house than about his well-being. After reading the Judge's mail (a common practice of the government for suspected "perverts" in the 1950s), the sons discover his correspondence with a young girl and conclude that he is sexually attracted to children. Capote juxtaposes this conclusion (based solely on these letters) with the Judge's version of events; the contrast highlights the problem of using such "evidence" to ascertain the desires and behaviors of others. The Judge explains to his tree-house confidants that five years earlier he came across a children's magazine with a listing of potential pen pals. Posing as fifteen-year-old boy, he began corresponding with a teenage girl in Alaska named Heather Falls, and he relished the nostalgia evoked by their rapport: "To be growing up again and have a sweetheart in Alaska--well, it was fun for an old man sitting alone listening to the noise of a clock" (42). After the girl fell in love with someone else, which pained the Judge, she sent him a gold nugget as a gift for his acceptance into law school. He still carries this trinket with him, but the experience has been tarnished by his sons' feeling that "they know something shameful about [him]" (42). Capote points out that the sons do not talk to their father about the matter; the Judge happens to overhear them discussing it with their wives: "They think it all a sign of ..." (43). He can articulate neither the words "sexual perversion" (a term readily applied to homosexuals and pedophiles during the Cold War) nor the depth of his hurt by these accusations. (15) Supposition has replaced real communication and understanding here, and the Judge, not wanting to justify himself to his sons or face the humiliation of such an accusation, hides away first in a tree and later in a boarding house. Truth is trumped by accusation in this climate, and the mere suggestion of aberrant sexuality, Capote suggests, has the power to diminish, terrorize, and marginalize.

In the Judge's case, these accusations remain private since he chooses to abandon his home, but Capote also portrays a character who is publically victimized by rumor. Sister Ida Honey, an evangelist who operates a traveling show with her fifteen children, clearly rejects conventional notions of domesticity and marriage, choosing instead to have a variety of sexual partners because she enjoys being pregnant. When she comes to town, Reverend Buster immediately capitalizes on her marginal status by spreading rumors about her. He claims that Sister Ida is known "throughout six states as an infamous trollop" (66), but to little effect. After witnessing the popularity and profitability of her show, he becomes enraged and tells Verena that Sister Ida called Dolly "an infidel, an enemy of Jesus" (67). This accusation secures Verena's influence and pressures the Sheriff to run Ida's family out of town--after the Reverend steals her money, of course. Though several townspeople defend Sister Ida, their voices are powerless against the legal system (Sheriff/future Senator), business interests (Verena), and religion (Reverend Buster). Collin even points out that "Everybody had a grand time [at Sister Ida's show] except the Reverend and Mrs. Buster" (66). Capote thus satirizes both religious hypocrisy and the way influential public figures can use gossip for personal or ideological gain. Once again, Capote contrasts the Reverend's lies with an alternate vision of Sister Ida and her children. The subsequent description of the hungry children as impoverished, lovingly devoted to their mother, and deeply appreciative of Judge Cool's feast makes the Reverend and the other forms of oppressive authority appear callous and criminal. Capote explicitly gives voice to the dangers of supposition through Dolly--the central figure of the narrator's and most of the characters' devotion. At the end of the novel, she condemns the accusations and violent behavior of the town: '"I don't think you can accuse me of conniving with anyone.... Especially not with bullies who,' she a little lost control, 'steal from children and drag old women into jail. I can't set much store by a name that endorses such methods. It ought to be a mockery'" (81).

Gossip has the power to enforce sexual self-suppression as well, which Capote presents as a far more insidious consequence of McCarthy-era persecution. Not surprisingly, given the highly public vilification of homosexuality in 1950, the first instance of gossip in the novel involves Verena's ambiguous sexuality. Collin's father, an irresponsible salesman who resents Verena's wealth, spreads rumors about her being a hermaphrodite: "One of the stories he spread, that Verena was a morphodyte, has never stopped going around" (10). Such rumors can do little to change her privileged status, but they do reflect the town's ongoing need to characterize aberrant behavior as freakish. The townspeople learn of her intimate relationships with Maudie Laura Murphy and later Morris Ritz, but most of their speculation about Verena proves false. The gossipers at the pool hall assume Verena is carrying on an affair with Morris at the abandoned cannery, but it turns out that the two of them are merely examining the property as a potential investment. She later explains that her love for Morris was not sexual: "we were kindred spirits" (84), sharing a similar passion for making money. The real love of her life appears to be Maudie, who breaks Verena's heart by marrying a liquor salesman and moving to the Grand Canyon. Verena spends countless nights looking at photos of her, crying, and pacing her bedroom with the lights off. Even at the end of the novel, Verena still dreams of visiting Maudie out West, but it seems clear she will never make the trip. She cannot act on her same-sex desires, in part because she worries about public perception. In a moment of weakness, she blames Dolly for her loneliness and emotional paralysis: "Has it not struck you that I never ask anyone into this house?... I'm ashamed to" (22-23). Capote suggests, however, that Verena is actually afraid of falling in love with another woman: "Men were afraid of her, and she herself seemed to be afraid of women" (12). Her fear comes from the destructive predicament that the town and the country have created for homosexuals and lesbians. Gossip may not cause her active persecution, but it does contribute to the ways in which she suppresses her own desires and identity.

Capote also links the most effeminate man in the text with the kind of gossip that leads to self-suppression. Everyone in town refers to the barber, Amos Legrand, as "old sis," and he addresses all of his customers (men and women) as "honey." Since Amos's ability to talk easily with folks of all ages makes him likeable, Collin assures readers that the term "old sis" was never intended as an insult: "they didn't mean any harm; most people enjoyed Amos and really wished him well" (63). Of course, their kindness is predicated on Amos's sexuality remaining private, which may explain his decision to live in a boarding house surrounded by old women who dote on him. In this context, his private life remains above suspicion. He might come across as homosexual, but he does not seem to have an outlet for acting on same-sex desire. This kind of sexual repression was not uncommon in the South at the time. As historian Pete Daniel explains in Lost Revolutions: The South in the 1950s:
   The rural nature of the South, its class system, and segregation
   created a distinct gay and lesbian culture. As in other parts of
   the country, most southerners accepted neighbors and friends whom
   they might have labeled as "sissies" or "old maids." Rural and
   small-town people might have whispered or giggled about "queers,"
   but they seldom took public action. As long as people played a role
   in the community and were discreet about their sexual preferences,
   they could live "normal" lives.... Although most southerners
   considered them perverts and thought they were damned, southern
   lesbians and gays offered neighbors enough ambiguity to guarantee
   their acceptance and security. (155)


Amos's treatment reflects the culture of gossip and conditioned acceptance surrounding Southern gay life. He is ridiculed through the name "sis" (or sissy), but he is not actively persecuted because his sexuality remains invisible to the community. Interestingly, Capote makes Amos the biggest town gossip, and in many ways, his position as story-teller gives him some control over his own sexual narrative. He can direct the town's attention toward others and away from himself. Like Verena's wealth and political influence, Amos's gossiping protects him from unwanted scrutiny.

Capote depicts the narrator as a victim of homophobic culture as well. Throughout the novel, no one discusses sex or sexuality openly. Judge Cool can't say the words "sexual perversion." Collin avoids the term "masturbation" (but not the act). Even Sister Ida skips over the details of her affair with her sister's husband. In this climate, it is not surprising that the characters lack a vocabulary for same-sex desire and that Collin can only hint at his romantic feelings for Riley Henderson: "I longed for him to be my friend!" (27); "Riley beckoned for me to come with him" (47); "I'd yearned so much for a ride in Riley's car" (57); "I crossed an admiring heart" (48). Part of Collin's attraction comes from his desire to be a conventional boy: "I longed to tell him he was all I wanted to be" (44). A capable fisher, hunter, mechanic, and carpenter, Riley embodies the traits of a stereotypical man. He spends time with town floozies, driving them around town in his red sports car. He is tough and intimidating, whereas Collin is emotional and hypersensitive. When Riley urinates on Collin's shoe as a joke, for example, Collin gets angry, but all is forgiven when Riley throws his arm over his shoulder: "the moment, at least, when there began in him an affectionate feeling for me that supported my own for him" (47-48). Growing up in a predominately heterosexual culture, Collin's attempts to romance Maude Riordan make sense, but his lackluster efforts seem motivated more by a desire to imitate Riley than any genuine emotional attachment for her. He "imagined for a while that [he] was in love with her" (52, emphasis mine), but this qualified statement comes after he realizes that she "was heartset on Riley" (52). He wants so much to be like Riley (and to be liked by him) that he seeks affection from the girls that fawn over Riley as well. Such a reading resonates with Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's notion that homosocial desire tends to triangulate a man's desire for another man through mutual affection for a woman. (16) Riley and Collin cannot openly express their affection for each other, so they find an outlet through Maude. Like other potentially gay figures in town, Collin also does not have a social model for acting on same-sex desire. Unlike Joel Knox in Other Voices, Other Rooms, whose uncle provides a viable, albeit questionable, model for same-sex desire, Collin remains part of a culture that criminalizes and marginalizes homosexuality--a culture that gives gay men and women little choice but to be secretive. The nostalgia in this novel, therefore, does not merely express a longing for, as Helen S. Garson states, "the irretrievability lost world of childhood" (33), but for a time when the freedom of choice seemed possible. As Dolly explains, "It's what I want, a choice. To know I could've had another life, all made of my own decisions. That would be making my peace, and truly" (68). The absence of personal freedom has the effect of encouraging self-suppression and rendering gay culture invisible, and Capote presents this as one of the more destructive aspects of homosexual persecution in the early 1950s.

Riley appears conflicted about his sexuality as well, and Capote uses this character to present the drive for material and social success in America as antithetical to living an openly gay life. Collin observes Riley's conservative attitude toward gender and sexuality when Sister Ida's fifteen children (of all ages and genders) bathe in the creek: "it's only now, seeing the kind of man he turned out to be, that I understand the paradox of his primness: he wanted so to be respectable that the defections of others somehow seemed to him backsliding on his own part" (72). These defections clearly include sexuality, and his embarrassment over nakedness--along with his disapproval of Sister Ida's promiscuity--suggests a discomfort with his own sexual identity. Riley, however, can't entertain this notion because he views any type of nonconformity as a threat to his dreams of social success. In the confines of the tree house (as a space for outcasts and unconventional behavior), Riley admits that he has "no feelings [for girls]--except for [his] sisters, which is different" (43), and he considers women "Bitches, by and large" (58). He goes on to describe his emotional aloofness for his recent girlfriend, whom he has been dating for one year:
   You said before about the one person in the world. Why couldn't I
   think of her like that? It's what I want, I'm no good by myself.
   Maybe, if I could care for somebody that way, I'd make plans and
   carry them out: buy that stretch of land past Parson's Place and
   build houses on it--I could do it if I got quiet. (44)


Riley's restlessness can be attributed to his discomfort with heterosexual romance, but given his professional aspirations, Capote suggests that he, too, has little choice in the matter. The intense pressure on young Americans to get married and become home owners in the 1950s made any alternative quite risky. "Individuals who chose personal paths that did not include marriage and parenthood," May has argued, "risked being perceived as perverted, immoral, unpatriotic, and pathological. Neighbors shunned them as if they were dangerous; the government investigated them as security risks. Their chances of living free of stigma or harassment were slim" (92). The nuclear family, in other words, provided a form of protection, promising personal fulfillment and offering an image of patriotic solidarity. After the community in the tree disbands, Riley marries Maude and becomes a suburban contractor in the mold of William J. Levitt, who applied Ford's assembly-line principles to suburban development and started Levittown in 1946 (in Hempstead, Long Island). (17) Riley becomes part of the suburban growth industry and everything it represented in 1950: the white, heterosexual American family. As Levitt himself remarked in 1948, "No man who owns his own house and lot can be a Communist. He has too much to do" (Jackson 231). Capote presents this kind of materialistic drive and investment in suburban culture as a disabling force in America. It prevents people from considering any alternative way of achieving personal happiness.

Finally, Capote reinforces his critique of 1950s conformist America through the novel's central message about social acceptance and love. While Judge Cool fears that there may be "no place for any of us" (37), the tree house offers a temporary escape from the social pressure to fit in. Situated on the outskirts of town, it literally elevates its occupants above the community's petty grievances and myopic attitudes. It gives them a perspective that the rest of the townspeople lack. As the Judge explains, "But ah, the energy we spend hiding from one another, afraid as we are of being identified. But here we are, identified: five fools in a tree. A great piece of luck provided we know how to use it: no longer any need to worry about the picture we present--free to find out who we truly are" (41). Capote suggests that greater self-awareness is essential for both social tolerance and love, and that this can be achieved only apart from concerns about appearances ("the picture we present"). Not surprisingly, the tree house provides a freedom from conformity that enables the characters to articulate a philosophy of inclusiveness. Collin provides the most succinct version of this when he muses: "No matter what passions compose them, all private worlds are good, they are never vulgar places" (51). Of course, this celebration of private worlds is common in Capote's fiction of the 1940s and 50s. In Other Voices, Other Rooms, for example, Randolph explains that "any love is natural and beautiful that lies within a person's nature; only hypocrites would hold a man responsible for what he loves" (147). Likewise, Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's states: "Be anything but a coward, a pretender, an emotional crook, a whore: I'd rather have cancer than a dishonest heart" (83). In all of these works, the notion of emotional and psychological honesty is connected with sexuality, (18) yet society prevents the characters in The Grass Harp from breaking free of conformity. There is no place for them outside the tree house. The only alternative, which many gay Americans had to accept in the 1950s, is offered by the African American character Catherine, whose race severely limits her civil rights: "People ought to keep more things to themselves. The deepdown ownself part of you, that's the good part: what's left of a human being that goes around speaking his privates?" (45). Her belief that private worlds should remain private reflects a social reality that heterosexual white characters in the novel never have to face--the actual dangers of being visibly different. Collin even notes that the Sheriff would have shot Catherine if he understood some of her remarks, and "many of the white people in town would have said he did right" (32). In this respect, Catherine's attempts to pass as Indian parallel Collin's attempts to pass as heterosexual. (19) The Grass Harp suggests, however, that these efforts are ultimately inauthentic and problematic. They ultimately lead to disillusionment and isolation.

The pressure to conform in the text comes from a range of sources --gossip, the threat of violence, and pervading social attitudes--that work together powerfully to suppress difference, just as they did in American culture at the time. At one point, the maternal Mrs. County (the baker's wife and a mother) tries to persuade Collin and Dolly to resume their previous lives: "you people should go home, Dolly ought to make her peace with Verena: that's what she's always done, and you can't turn around at her time of life. Also, it sets a poor example for the town, two sisters quarreling, ... Leading citizens have to behave themselves; otherwise the entire place goes to pieces" (60-61). The town values the appearance of normality to such an extent that any image of discontent or nonconformity must be quelled. Thus, the sheriffs hand is always poised on his pistol and the town is willing to use violence to bring Dolly and the others back into the fold. No wonder Riley Henderson retreats to marriage and suburbia. His capitulation, like Judge's and Collin's, reinforces Capote's social and cultural critique. After Dolly and Collin return home, Mrs. County expresses relief: "Ha ha, guess we can laugh about all that foolishness now" (89). In a book filled with rich humor, her laughter rings false here. The pressures of conformity are too great to allow Dolly and the others what they most desire: the freedom to follow their own passions. As Dolly explains to Collin, "It's what I want, a choice. To know I could've had another life, all made of my own decisions. That would be making my peace, and truly" (68). But sadly, Capote's characters don't get this choice, and in the context of 1950, neither did gay Americans.

This historical context may also explain some of Capote's feelings of sadness while writing the novel. The short-lived nature of the tree-house and the characters' capitulation to larger, communal forces suggest Capote's pessimism, which can often amount to nothing more than an implicit endorsement of the status quo. The same is true for the characters' philosophy about private worlds since retreating to a private realm tends to depoliticize issues. It can place them outside the boundaries of public debate. However, such a reading fails to acknowledge the real terror that many Americans felt during the Cold War. It is my contention that Capote uses the nostalgia of the novel to create a yearning in his readers for a space that can make inclusiveness a lasting possibility instead of something ephemeral. Ripping the characters from the tree house shatters the pastoral atmosphere of the book; this moment rips readers out of complacency as well. The Grass Harp may not provide a concrete map for achieving greater civil rights for homosexuals and nonwhites, but it does capture a troubling moment in US history, a moment characterized by fear and paralysis and by an inability among marginalized groups to voice the failure of American democracy to treat its citizens with dignity, respect, and equality. It is, for Capote, a moment that demands interrogation and social change.

Works Cited

Altschuler, Glenn C. All Shook Up: How Rock 'n' Roll Changed America. New York: Oxford UP, 2003.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Bloom's Modern Critical Views: Truman Capote, New Edition. New York: Infobase, 2009.

Capote, Truman. "The Art of Fiction XVII: Truman Capote." Interview by Pati Hill. 1957. Inge 20-32.

--. Breakfast at Tiffany's and Three Stories. 1958. New York: Vintage, 1993.

--. '"Go Right Ahead and Ask Me Anything.' (And So She Did): An Interview with Truman Capote." Interview by Gloria Steinem. 1966. Inge 86-104.

--. The Grass Harp: Including A Tree of Night and Other Stories. 1951. New York: Vintage, 1993.

--. Letters to Andrew Lyndon, 1947-1952. Truman Capote Papers. Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library. Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.

--. Other Voices, Other Rooms. 1948. New York: Vintage, 1994.

--. Portraits and Observations: The Essays of Truman Capote. New York: Random House, 2007.

--. "Truman Capote." Interview by Roy Newquist. 1964. Inge 38-46. Christensen, Peter G. "Capote As Gay American Author." 1993. Waldmeir and Waldmeir 61-67.

--."Major Works and Themes." 1999. Waldmeir and Waldmeir 221-29. Clarke, Gerald. Capote: A Biography. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988.

Daniel, Pete. Lost Revolutions: The South in the 1950s. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2000.

D'Emilio, John. "The Homosexual Menace: The Politics of Sexuality in Cold War America." Making Trouble: Essays on Gay History, Politics, and the University. New York: Routledge, 1992: 57-73.

Doherty, Thomas. Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture. New York: Columbia UP, 2003.

Fahy, Thomas. '"Some Unheard-of Thing': Freaks, Families, and Coming of Age in Carson McCullers and Truman Capote." 2006. Bloom 151-71.

Garson, Helen S. Truman Capote: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1992.

Halberstam, David. The Fifties. New York: Villard, 1993.

Hassan, Ihab H. "The Daydream and Nightmare of Narcissus." 1960. Waldmeir and Waldmeir 49-60.

Inge M. Thomas, ed. Truman Capote: Conversations. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1987.

Jackson, Kenneth T. Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States. New York: Oxford UP, 1985.

Johnson, David K. The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2004.

Levine, Paul. "Truman Capote: The Revelation of the Broken Image." 1958. Waldmeir and Waldmeir 81-93.

Long, Robert Emmet. Truman Capote--Enfant Terrible. New York: Continuum P, 2008.

Malin, Irving. "From Gothic to Camp." 1964. Waldmeir and Waldmeir 95-97.

May, Elaine Tyler. Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era. 1988. New York: Basic Books, 2008.

McCarthy, Joseph. McCarthyism: The Fight for America. New York: Devin-Adair, 1952.

Miller, Douglas T., and Marion Nowak. The Fifties: The Way We Really Were. New York: Doubleday, 1977.

Mitchell-Peters, Brian. "Camping the Gothic: Que(e)ring Sexuality in Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms." Journal of Homosexuality 39:1 (2000): 107-38.

Perry, J. Douglas, Jr. "Gothic as Vortex: The Form of Horror in Capote, Faulkner, and Styron." 1973. Bloom 43-56.

Reumann, Miriam G. American Sexual Character: Sex, Gender, and National identity in the Kinsey Reports. Berkeley: U of California P, 2005.

Richards, Gary. Lovers and Beloveds: Sexual Otherness in Southern Fiction, 1936-1961. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 2005.

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire. New York: Columbia UP, 1985.

Terry, Jennifer. An American Obsession: Science, Medicine, and Homosexuality in Modern Society. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1999.

US Senate. "Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex Perverts in the U.S. Government." 1950. We Are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics. Ed. Mark Blasius and Shane Phelan. New York: Routledge, 1997. 241-51.

Wagner-Martin, Linda. The Mid-Century American Novel 1935-1965: A Critical History. New York: Twayne, 1997.

Waldmeir, Joseph J., and John C. Waldmeir, eds. The Critical Response to Truman Capote. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1999.

THOMAS FAHY

Long Island University

(1) According to Capote, "one day, when I was nine or ten, I was walking along the road [in Alabama], kicking stones, and I realized that I wanted to be a writer, an artist. How did it happen? ... I don't believe in possession, but something took over inside me, some little demon that made me a writer" (Clarke 48-49).

(2) Anna Stabler possessed all of these qualities (Clarke 19).

(3) As he recalls in a 1957 interview with Pati Hill, "I have a passion for newspapers ... read all the New York dailies every day, and the Sunday edition of several foreign magazines too. The ones I don't buy I read standing at news stands" (Inge 26-27).

(4) When Truman arrived, his mother had remarried and changed her name to Nina Capote (just as Lula Mae would rename herself Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's). Her divorce from Arch became official on November 9,1931, and on February 14,1935, Lillie Mae's legal petition for complete custody was granted. "Joe became a father, and at the age of ten Truman Streckfus Persons was renamed Truman Garcia Capote" (Clarke 38).

(5) Capote was working on Summer Crossing at the time, but he ultimately abandoned the text. The manuscript was discovered and published in 2004. As Robert Emmet Long explains, "It reemerged ... with a collection of newly found Capote material--letters, photographs, manuscripts--offered to Sotheby's for auction. With it came an account of how this trove of material became available that reads like fiction" (34).

(6) Material from Capote's letters is reprinted with permission of The Truman Capote Literary Trust. Copyright [c] 2004 The Truman Capote Literary Trust.

(7) For more on nuclear technology and weapons development in America and the Soviet Union at the time, see David Halberstam's The Fifties, 25-48.

(8) Ihab H. Hassan also views Capote as having two styles: a "nocturnal style" and a "daylight style," a distinction that can be found throughout Capote criticism.

(9) See also Malin and Mitchell-Peters.

(10) In the most basic sense, I am using the word "canon" to refer to literary works being actively taught in a university setting today.

(11) In 1947 the State Department published its security principles; this quotation comes from that document (Johnson 21).

(12) For more on this, see Johnson (20-23).

(13) Whittaker Chambers, a former member of the Communist party, appeared before HUAC and testified that Alger Hiss, a former State Department official, was a Communist. The high-profile case included accusations that the two men shared an intimate relationship and that Chambers was acting like a jealous lover. Hiss was ultimately convicted of perjury and spent forty-four months in a federal prison. See Halberstam (11-16) and Johnson (32-33).

(14) For a trenchant analysis of this document, see D'Emilio.

(15) In the context of the Judge's playful romance with the girl, the subsequent revelations of romance by the other tree dwellers, and the fact that other labels such as "madness" would not offend him (he cheerfully refers to himself as a fool in a tree and falls in love with Dolly, whom the town considers "mad"), it seems clear that the Judge overheard his sons saying that he was some kind of sexual deviant or "pervert" (to use the term typically applied to this at the time).

(16) See Chapter 1, "Gender Asymmetry and Erotic Triangles," in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire.

(17) Levitt helped transform the housing crisis of World War II into a booming industry, and nearly 1.7 million single family startups were built in 1950 alone. As Kenneth T. Jackson notes in Crabgrass Frontier, "By 1950 the national suburban growth rate was ten times that of central cities, and in 1954 the editors of Fortune estimated that 9 million people had moved to the suburbs in the previous decade" (238).

(18) Prior to these comments by Holly Golightly, she discusses her attraction to women: "And of course I am [a bit of a dyke myself]. Everyone is: a bit" (22).

(19) As an effeminate gay man, Capote was acutely aware of the ways in which other people, particularly his mother, perceived him, and he could understand this desire among homosexuals and lesbians in contemporary America to pass.
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Date:Jan 1, 2013
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