Naked Lunch | Study Guide

William Burroughs

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Naked Lunch | Chapter 9 : Hassan's Rumpus Room | Summary

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Summary

An orgy commences in Hassan's "gilt and red plush" rumpus room. It begins when a Mugwump strips a young man and has sex with him, despite the boy's protests. Later he takes the boy up a platform and puts a noose on him. He pushes the boy off the platform while still having sex with him. The orgy escalates with various characters engaging in increasingly creatively depraved acts, including a mass hanging. Eventually a "horde of lust-mad American women" arrive on the scene demanding sex. A.J. brings out a sword and decapitates the American women as he assumes a pirate persona. He calls in "a thousand rutting Eskimos," who copulate with the corpses. Hassan kicks him out of the rumpus room.

Analysis

The activities in Hassan's rumpus room provide characterization of Hassan as a permissive host who encourages extreme depravity in his own presence, in his own home. Hassan's attitude toward the orgy in his rumpus room is later explained in Chapter 15. He is revealed to be a "Liquefactionist ... given to every sort of perversion." In an essay Burroughs comments on the orgies and hangings in the novel, saying they are written as a protest against capital punishment. The meaning rests in the juxtaposition of the obscene sexual encounters with the obscenity of the hangings. The scene is meant to raise questions about why the orgies are considered immoral while the executions are acceptable.

The arrival of the American women reveals contempt both for the women themselves and for American culture. The various costumes they wear include "riding clothes, ski togs, evening dresses, Levis, tea gowns, print dresses, slacks, bathing suits, and kimonos." These are, in general, items of clothing worn by the leisure class for leisure activities. These are not working-class women, and they adhere to the strictest of mainstream ideals. The violence A.J. first perpetrates against these women further solidifies his contempt for them. However, their unabated lust also criticizes the culture that has made them this way. They are strapped into ski togs and evening gowns with an expectation they will suppress their sexual urges. That is, until they are in a place to express those urges in a context that is socially acceptable. These women can't handle such repression and run amok, demanding release.

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