The Treatments of Youthful Sexuality
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us or we find it not.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
In exploring the youthful treatments of sexuality I have focused on three stories: "Summer" by David Updike, "Lust" by Susan Minot, and "Carnal Knowledge" by T. Coraghessan Boyle. While these stories have a similar underlying theme-youthful sexuality-they differ significantly in their views of that theme.
In "Summer" we are treated to a blissful view of summer love unfolding on a vacation getaway. A young boy is smitten by a young girl in a stereotypical case of unrequited love.(p.318) In contrast to this, "Carnal Knowledge" rewards the main character, Jim, with affection. Contrasting further, in "Lust" the main character receives physical attention, but the story leaves little doubt that attention and affection are not the same. The uniting theme in all three stories is not that the characters receive or desire love, but that the characters view the world in a very physical way.
In "Summer", we are introduced to Homer who is infatuated with Fred's sister Sandra. However, in describing Sandra, Homer makes no reference to her character. He makes no reference to her background. In fact, the only way of describing Sandra is physically. (p.318) Homer spends his time trying to impress Sandra with physical feats such as tennis. In fact, the very sight of her in her nightgown, "...pierced him with a regret that had no source or resolution..." (p.318)
In "Carnal Knowledge", Jim describes Alena as "...Aphrodite rising from the waves or accepting the golden apple..." He describes her physically rather than emotionally. He even admitted, "I could only gape at her." (p.291)
"Lust" differs in that the main character is a girl talking about boys such as those in "Summer" and "Carnal Knowledge". Here ... Continues...