Above all, however, my joy flowed out from some source I had not known since I had come to New York months before, and thought I had abandoned forever—fellowship, familiarity, sweet times among friends. The brittle aloofness with which I had so willfully armed myself I felt crumbling away entirely.
This quotation occurs in Chapter Three as Stingo’s friendship with Nathan and Sophie becomes more intimate, and he reflects on how much happiness this friendship gives him. At the start of the novel, Stingo is isolated in his new life in New York and spends most of his time alone. He tries to tell himself that he likes spending this time alone, believing that his isolation will nurture his creativity and help him to become a better writer. In reality, Stingo’s loneliness just distracts him, and he becomes much happier and more stable once he makes friends with Nathan and Sophie. In this quotation, Stingo admits that his attempt at being an aloof loner was contrary to his actual personality and was an act he put on. He is much happier being part of a circle of close friends. This admission reflects Stingo’s insecurity and doubts about how he wants to appear to the world. He sometimes performs a role, even for himself, in order to develop the personality he thinks he wants rather than the one he actually has.
The quotation also shows the deep affection that Stingo feels for Sophie and Nathan, which explains why he becomes so attached to their fates. As the plot progresses, Stingo sees the darker sides of both Nathan and Sophie, and, as a result of being entangled with them, Stingo’s own life and stability are undermined. However, he is never able to abandon them, and he continuously craves their love and approval. Because Nathan and Sophie are Stingo’s only friends in New York, he becomes particularly obsessed with maintaining the friendship. They come to represent a major source of love and affection for him. While Stingo acknowledges that he has romantic and sexual feelings for Sophie, this quotation shows that his passion is actually rooted in a deep attachment to both Nathan and Sophie as a unit.