Author: William Styron
Participants: Stingo, Sophie
Worst Line(s): "Her voice in my ear, the incomprehensible words in Polish nonetheless understood, urging me on as if in a race, urging me to some ever-receding finish line. Fucking for some reason on the gritty bone-hard floor, the reason unclear, dim, stupid—why, for Christ's sake—then abruptly dawning: to view, as on a pornographic screen, our pale white entwined bodies splashing back from the lusterless mirror on the bathroom door. A kind of furious obsessed wordlessness finally—no Polish, no English, no language, only breath. Soixante-neuf (recommended by the doctor), where after smothering for minute after minute in her moist mossy cunt's undulant swamp, I came at last in Sophie's mouth, came in a spasm of such delayed, prolonged, exquisite intensity that I verged on a scream, or a prayer, and my vision went black, and I gratefully perished. Sleep then—a sleep that was beyond mere sleep. Cold-cocked. Etherized. Dead."
Attacking Williams Styron's kinda adored Holocaust novel Sophie's Choice for its sexism is a thorny prospect, as the author's narrator, Stingo, a young man who fancies himself a writer, is meant to be an object of ridicule. This helps to shield the book from certain kinds of criticism—ostensibly. The reader laughs at his naïveté, the reader groans at his one-minded pursuit of sex, the reader eye-rolls at his purple prose. And Styron must be aware of this, right?
Even if you give the author the benefit of the doubt—which he's due—the book reaches a point where the reader can't help but feel that Styron is letting himself play out certain stereotypically male sexual fantasies under the guise of the character he's created—"Guys, he would act like this, nothing I can do about it"—a character that, again and again, is likened to Styron. This fantasy-making culminates in the book's final sex scene, where Stingo and Sophie, a survivor, couple pornographically.
Stingo has lusted after Sophie for the length of the novel. Indeed, his obsession with Sophie has grown concurrently to his learning about her time in the death camp at Auschwitz. This narrative linkage of the Holocaust and sex is symbolically represented by the carnal, fleshy Sophie. Her body, first abused by Nazis and now a site of charged eroticism, conflates genocide and sexuality. It's disaster porn and porn porn at the same damn time.
And so the reader arrives at the money shot. After hundreds of pages of griping about losing his virginity, Stingo gets to fuck Sophie. The long sex bout, which marginalizes her experience completely, concludes with him ejaculating in her mouth. Shortly after, Sophie kills herself. Stingo proudly tells her sad sad sad tale for the betterment of humanity. It's all beyond laughable.
This writer has no use for novels such as this. —Ross Scarano