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Boys Will Like Boys

Both “The Outing”, by James Baldwin, and “The Happy Prince” by Oscar Wilde follow

the friendship of two boys who have connection so deep that it questionable whether the

relationship can be assumed as platonic. Both stories feature scenes in which the boys are

embracing and fiercely declaring their love for one another. Yet, “The Outing” is a story about a

young, secret, unrequited love while “The Happy Prince” is a metaphor for the relationships that

occur as a gay man matures and explores the world by falling in love with the freedom and

influence of rich, worldly, handsome men. What underlying message connects these stories?

The title itself “The Outing” can be taken to mean more than just the inocuos church

retreat that it follows, implying the story is actually a sexual awakening in Johnnie as he comes

to terms with the fact that David, and only David, holds his heart. Unfortunately David doesn’t

give attention that Johnnie wants, which is a metaphor for the struggles a person goes through to

find a mate that is equally in love with them. “The Happy Prince” is an interesting title choice as

gay is synonymous with happy, and the Prince a quite ornate and flamboyantly decorated statue.

The story focuses on later in a gay man’s life when they aren’t necessarily looking for love, but

they find a relationship that benefits them through companionship and often financial aid,

represented by the gold, jewels, and protection the Prince statue gave to the little Swallow. But

unlike David in “The Outing” who never gives Johnnie the attention he deserves, the Prince

provides aid, from his own body, to the Swallow and the hard working people of the city, until

he is a barren shell and the only thing left to love him is the Swallow. In the end, they both die

and the Prince is no longer adored by his people “as he is no longer beautiful he is no longer

useful” because he helped them. It echoes Shakespeare’s sentiments in Sonnet 126 when he says;
“may Time disgrace and wretched minutes kill”, or that as time passes on beauty and love will

inevitably be betrayed by aging. (p.85)

The underlying message that connects these stories is that queer love is the same as

straight love in that the plot goes; heartbreak, falling in love, realizing you’re soulmates. But

there are way more negative societal pressures to discourage a homosexual person from finding

love even though no matter the gender (or lack thereof) for each individual, we all are entitled to