The Word Queer in Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself by Radclyffe Hall

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Radclyffe Hall was specific in choosing the word 'queer', and using it four different times in Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself. By examining the reason behind this, it is clear that the word 'queer' has a major influence on Miss Ogilvys story. Queer, at the time Radclyffe Hall was writing, meant odd and of questionable character. In Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself, the author uses the word 'queer' to call attention to the fact that Miss Ogilvy feels out of place when she is home. Additionally, the writer uses 'queer' to describe the unusual strong appearance of Mrs. Ogilvys body despite her slender frame.

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The characters interactions among one another, show Miss Ogilvys discomfort throughout her life; however, later experiences allow her to feel normal. Mrs. Ogilvy always had a feeling that she was out of the ordinary. At home, her interests were dissimilar to those of her sisters. She did not like dolls and preferred to hang out with the stable boys. She perceived herself to be more aggressive than expected of her and a little awkward in social situations. She preferred to play with football tops and even catapults that was the behavior, unlike a young lady. Ogilvy was also unlike her sisters. She had short hair, which stood out, especially because all her peers had grown their hair. Her sisters were of the opinion she was out of the ordinary because she had short hair. Ogilvy also preferred to refer to herself as William as opposed to Wilhelmina, which was her real name.

The author also portrays Ogilvy as unusual in the sense that during the war, she preferred to be on the front-lines while her companions were working from home away from the melodramatic scenes that characterized the battlefields. The army in her home country repeatedly turned down her persistent requests to enlist. When she travels to the isolated island, a sense of relief and contentment passes through her. She realizes that her perceived oddness is all right to her, and she is comfortable in her perceived unusualness. She feels content because at the island she was not under the judgment of anyone, and she was at peace with herself the way she was. The author also uses 'queer' to describe the caps worn by the ladies in the French Military. In this sense, the word 'queer' is used to mean unusual out of the ordinary. The caps may have been different from what Ogilvy was used to in her home country. Subsequently, they were unusual to her.

'Queer' is also used in describing 'Questionable character.' Ogilvy displays habits that are questionable to her character throughout her life. As a child, her relations with her sisters was not normal in the sense that she had dissimilar tastes. Later in life, she has habits that are a deviantion from the norm. A woman of a certain age is expected to have relations with the opposite sex that will lead to marriage and settling down. However, Ogilvy had different relations with the opposite sex. She took to them as companions other than romantic companions. She preferred to work with them. She showed no intentions of looking for a husband and was more oriented towards being business like. Her behavior was not customary for young women. They were expected to groom themselves for suitors. Similarly, Ogilvy turned down three suitors for no concrete reason related to their suitability other than she was not in the mood for marriage. Her reluctance was strange behavior.

Ogilvys desire to do more for her country than what her fellow women were doing was not questionable. It was an indication of her strong preference to be actively involved in defending her country. The French were enlisting women, so it was not an unheard of phenomenon for a woman to be actively involved in combat at the frontlines.

Ogilvys penchant for running affairs in an efficient manner was also a trait that is not questionable. Her interactions with the opposite sex had led to her acquiring skills that were mainly attributed to men but appreciated in women. She knew how to handle money and invested in the right assets. At the time of the book's setting, many women exhibited similar characteristics and were not unusual except that in Ogilvy's family, none had the same traits.


Ogilvy does display characteristics that the author describes as queer. In the meaning of the word in describing Ogilvy as a queer little girl, the author indicates that Ogilvy exhibited characteristics that were unusual for a little girl. She did not play with dolls like her sisters but rather played with football tops and hung out with the opposite sex more than her sex that was not usual practices for a little girl. Her lack of desire for male companionship in marriage was also unlike the expected norm. The author uses the word 'queer' to draw attention to the unusual habits that Ogilvy exhibits in her life. The word 'queer' is not used to show she is bad, but rather she is not in the conventional range of societys expectations.


Korte, B., & Einhaus, A. M. (2007). The Penguin book of First World War stories. London:

Penguin Books.

Stevenson, A. (Ed.). (2010). Oxford Dictionary of English. Oxford University Press.

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