8. Alec Scudder – Maurice.
Great Britain, in the period leading to the First World War, wasn’t an especially inviting place for homosexuals. Even though E.M. Forster wrote and set his novel Maurice during this era, it wasn’t published until after his death in 1971, due to the controversy this novel presented. Forster, himself a largely closeted gay man, wrote this novel after getting a glimpse of what an actual loving gay relationship could be like. While probably serving as an escapist fantasy for Forster while writing it, Maurice still shows an enlightened sense of humanity which would eventually become the prevalent attitude.
The novel focuses on Maurice Hill, a young man who struggles with his own homosexuality throughout the incredibly homophobic societal construct of the United Kingdom during this period. His first love, with whom he had an incredibly passionate (yet chaste) relationship for a span of nearly 3 years, caved into pressure and married a woman. Despondent, Maurice threw himself into work to try and forget about his nature and his pain. One unassuming day, however, while vacationing at an acquaintance’s country home, Maurice suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Alec Scudder.
This young gamekeeper is handsome, passionate, and incredibly poor. In fact, the class difference between Scudder and Maurice is one of the biggest struggles the two have to face, as this was a very distinct division in Britain at the time. This doesn’t stop Scudder, however, from pursuing what he wants. He plays a slow game in seducing Maurice, lurking in the background, just barely visible in the beginning. As time passes, however, Alec becomes more and more visible to Maurice, despite his lower station. When the time finally comes when the tension between the two can build no higher, Scudder makes his move and shows Maurice exactly what he’s been missing.
Alec Scudder is by no means perfect, though. He’s raw and vulnerable, despite being the one who shows Maurice how to embrace his true self. When Maurice panics after being with him, Alec also reacts hastily and hurts Maurice in turn. This is why Scudder earns a spot on this list. Literature often has a tendency to turn characters into ideal forms, especially when the author has an emotional stake in the story itself. The fact that Alec Scudder is a strong person, an admirable partner, and still has human flaws grants him his place with the others.
Tags: books, class differences, classic literature, EM Forster, England, gay character, gay relationship, gay-nerds, homosexuality, lesbian nerds, literature, Maurice, Scudder, society pressure, Top 10