Conspiracy Theories About Classic Literary Characters


This week, we read a pretty fascinating article over at Salon , in which Greg Olear argues that Nick Carraway, the narrator of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, was gay and in love with the novel’s eponymous character. Though a Google search indicates that Olear’s not exactly the first person to think of this, we have to admit that we’d never considered the idea before, and his arguments are pretty persuasive. The article got us to thinking about the other theories and alternate interpretations that are floating around about some of our favorite classic literary characters. An investigation, and perhaps a few sides of characters you’ve never seen before, after the jump.

Nick Carraway is Gay.

The aforementioned Greg Olear convinced us on two points — first, the way Carraway describes female characters as opposed to male characters (the latter with much more passion and attention to physicality than the former), and second, that scene with Mr. McKee, which, now that we re-read it, can only be a hook-up. What’s interesting to us about this revelation is this: if the Gatsby we know has been being viewed this whole time by someone who is head over heels in love with him, we need to go back and reevaluate.

Everyone in Winnie the Pooh is a classic example of a common mental disorder.

In 2000, the Canadian Medical Association Journal published an article diagnosing the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood with psychiatric disorders. “On the surface it is an innocent world,” the article begins, “but on closer examination by our group of experts we find a forest where neurodevelopmental and psychosocial problems go unrecognized and untreated.” Here’s what you want to know: supposedly, Pooh has ADHD, Piglet suffers from a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Eeyore from chronic dysthymia (depression). Owl is dyslexic, Tigger exhibits hyperactivity and impulsivity, and Christopher Robin (or rather, the illustrations thereof) shows signs of “future gender identity issues.”

Holden Caulfield is gay, too.

We’ve heard this theory come up multiple times over the years, supported by fans who cite Holden’s attention to the physicality of his male friends, his confusion or even revulsion at the thought of having sex with a woman, the ambiguity of his interaction with Mr. Antolini. Then again, he could be equally confused about sex as a straight sixteen year old.

Odysseus’s journey takes so long because he doesn’t want to go home.

Why does it take Odysseus ten years to get back to Ithaca after the end of the Trojan War? One theory is that he just didn’t want to return to his old, boring life, and all that mucking about with witch-goddesses and cyclopes was just our hero dragging his feet. This interpretation isn’t a new fad, however: Alfred, Lord Tennyson liked the idea so much that he wrote a poem about it.

Hogwarts was all in Harry Potter’s head.

We stumbled across this one over at Cracked, where Karl Smallwood lays out the theory. Namely that Harry was an abused child who coped by escaping into a fantasy world, and turning all his real-life injuries into magical ones (Harry is sent to the infirmary six times over the series). This also, Smallwood notes, helps shore up all the plot holes inherent in Rowling’s world — that’s just Harry’s abused but growing mind trying to fit it all together.

Dorothy is a witch.

There’s been much contention over whether L.Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was intended as political satire of one kind of another, but we like this theory that we spotted over at TVTropes: “It is generally assumed that in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Boq and the Good Witch of the North are mistaken when they initially assume that Dorothy Gale is a witch, but Dorothy summons the vortex that brought her to Oz in the first place, she gives life, or the semblance thereof, to a scarecrow and an empty suit of armor, she converses with and commands wild animals, and she takes control of the winged monkeys, before finally using the power of the silver slippers to transport herself back to Kansas.”

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are in love.

The original ambiguously gay duo, the speculation about these two will never cease, especially as more and more adaptations starring handsome actors crop up (and those handsome actors keep doing things like describing the BBC series Sherlock as having “the gayest story in the history of television”). There has been extensive research done on this subject, and theories differ (one of them is a woman! One of them is a transsexual! Holmes is constantly sexually harassing Watson!), but we’re sure Arthur Conan Doyle would never admit to a thing. Even though he was going to stop after A Study in Scarlet but decided to keep going after a meeting in a hotel with Oscar Wilde. Just saying.

The walrus and the carpenter are the Buddha and Jesus.

At least if you listen to Loki. There were also many, including the British essayist J.B. Priestley, who have argued that the figures in Lewis Carroll’s poem were political figures, though that seems to have been roundly debunked.