"Just friends": queer theory and compulsory heterosexuality in Nella Larsen's Passing, Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone, and S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders

Representations of queer relationships in literature are often put in the subtext of works, rather than explicitly addressed. Using Passing by Nella Larsen, Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell, and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, I am examining queer subtext in non-explicitly queer American works. I am focusing on the strong and complex bonds the protagonists have with their same-sex friends. Using the essays of other scholars reading these texts and Adrienne Rich’s theory of compulsory heterosexuality, I am analyzing the romantic subtext in same-sex friendships in literature, especially as compared to the heterosexual relationships. In Passing, my focus is on the protagonist, Irene, and the comparison between her relationship with her husband and her friend. In Winter’s Bone, I discuss the network of female relationships in their culture, as well as the protagonist and her close childhood friend and the way that the heterosexual marriages function apart from the female relationships. In The Outsiders, it is the friendship between the protagonist, Ponyboy, and Johnny Cade, as well as the symbolic nature of setting.