Early in “The Line of Beauty”, itbecomes clear how the society in the 1980s viewed homosexuality with the caseof Hector Maltby, a junior minister in the Foreign Office, who “had been caughtwith a rent boy in his Jaguar.”(The Line of Beauty,) While discussing thesubject in the Feddens house, Nick feels “as if he’d been caught in aJaguar himself”() because of the tension in the kitchen and because heknows just exactly how Gerald and Rachel feel about homosexuality.
Nick feelsrestrained and shy when he is around Gerald after this talk.The Feddens like to think that they keep theirsocial image by not mentioning “delicate” subjects. An example ofthis is visible when Catherine’s godfather and Rachel’s friend Pat dies. Racheland Gerald try to hide the actual reason for Pat’s death by saying that he diedof pneumonia whereas he actually died of AIDS.
This outrages Catherine, and shemakes her family face the truth of Pat’s death. The desire to uphold an imageof “respectability” in the upper-class society prevented these peoplefrom openly discussing homosexuality which was considered as a taboo. Sally Tipper, the wife of Sir Maurice Tipper, isready to criticise anyone whose lifestyle is not “proper” for her.
When talking about Pat’s death with Sir Maurice and Nick, she implies that Pathad it brought AIDS on himself by having sex with men, and says that thehomosexuals are “going to have to learn.” After Nick’s statementabout oral sex, Sally asks if Nick meant kissing. “Nick went onflatteringly. .
.’there are other things one can do. I mean there’s oral sex. ..
‘ Sally took this stoically. ‘Kissing, you mean.’ ” (The Line ofBeauty,) Turning a blind eye andadopting a “see no evil, speak no evil” policy is the way these conservativesof upper-class live.Nick’s first lover, Leo Charles, takes him to hishouse where he lives with his sister and his religious mother. Mrs Charles, whois Leo’s mother, does not accept that his son was gay even after his deathcaused by AIDS. Her choice to stay silent and not talk about his son’shomosexuality is fueled by her intense religious belief.
Leo’s sister Rosemarymakes clear that Mrs Charles chooses to close her ears to the fact his sonloved and had sex with men. “‘She doesn’t accept he was gay. It’s a mortal sin, you see,’ said Rosemary, andnow the Jamaican stress was satirical. . .’And her son was no sinner.
‘ ” (TheLine..) Mrs Charles likes to think that Leo got AIDS “off a toilet seat atthe office, which is full of godless socialists.” (The Line of) Inaddition to Leo, his sister Rosemary is a homosexual. Gemma, who is her lover,knows that Mrs Charles will never be okay with Rosemary’s homosexuality, andwill never accept this fact. Mrs Charles’s attitude towards homosexuality isthe reflection of conservatives. The homosexuals, unlike the heterosexuals, werenot able to meet in public places and be open about their sexuality in theThatcher era.
Nick and Leo cannot find a place to meet and feel comfortablewithout people judging them. The two cannot even talk on the phone without thestare of Gerald: “Gerald looked at him again as if to say that the brutereality of gay life, of actual phone calls between shirt-lifters, was rathermore than he had ever imagined being asked to deal with. . .
“(TLB) Aftertheir first date, they cannot find a place to be alone together because thereis not a single place they know where they will not be stared at and judgedbecause of the intense homophobia at the time.The fear of coming out is apparent with WaniOuradi, Nick’s upper-class lover with whom he has an affair. The novel givesmany examples of how the upper-class society in the 1980s view homosexualityand disapprove and judge it.
As part of this circle, Wani feels repressed anddoes not openly live his “actual” life because of his heterosexistfather. As revealed later in the novel, Wani’s mother pays Martine to keep herpretending to be Wani’s fiancee. This fact surprises Nick who never noticedthat Martine was given an allowance, and realises what a lie Wani has beenliving.
” ‘What are you going to do about Martine?’ said Nick. ‘Oh, just thesame. She’ll carry on getting her allowance, at least until she marries. . .’ “(The Line of Beauty,) Wani and his mother are afraid that Wani’s father willfind about his homosexuality, so Wani reveals to Nick that his son having afiancee is “his last illusion.
” (The Line,)Nick wants to feel part of the Feddens family,but Gerald’s attitude towards homosexuality and his stern belief in a societywhich is only heteronormative keeps Nick from being himself around Gerald andRachel. As he is a gay man not of upper-class, Nick is doubly marginalised inthe 1980s Britain. His uncertain status in the household and society makes him”dangerous” in the eyes of homophobic society. At the end of thenovel, right after Gerald’s affair makes the news and Wani’s illness is heard,Nick is chosen as the scapegoat and is humiliated and sent out of the Feddenshouse. The conversation he has with Gerald right before the end of the noveldemonstrates how he likes to play the ignorant man who has no knowledge of gay life.When Gerald mentions Martine, Nick tells him the truth about Wani and Martine’snonexistent relationship. ” ‘Oh yes, but she wasn’t actually hisgirlfriend.
‘ ‘No, no, they were going toget married.’ ‘They might have got married, but it was just a front, Gerald.She was only a paid companion.’ . .
.The facts of gay life had always been ataboo for him.” (TLB)