Nelson is an outspoken American communist entertainer, blacklisted from Hollywood during McCarthyism, who moves to England and has a brief affair with Anna in the last section of the blue notebook. She meets him when, at a British Communist Party meeting, he openly criticizes the Party’s efforts to hide stories of Soviet repression from its members and the public. She finds Nelson enthralling and passionate but soon learns about his “mortal terror of sex”—he becomes hysterical before bed, goes on misogynist rants after sleeping with her, and mysteriously disappears for weeks before Anna goes to his house for a party, where he and his paranoid, beautiful wife try to hide their obvious tension by drinking excessively and laughing publicly about their hatred for one another. He later calls Anna to propose marriage, then spitefully denigrates women on the phone before hanging up and calling later to demand that she tell him he had not hurt her. Like De Silva, Nelson appears in Anna’s nightmare about “joyful spite” and represents the paradox of men unable to reconcile their desire to objectify and need for emotional support from women; he insists that Anna lie to validate his skewed image of their relationship, which demonstrates how men unable to face their own contradictions instead push those contradictions and their emotional consequences onto the women in their lives.
Nelson Character Timeline in The Golden Notebook
The timeline below shows where the character Nelson appears in The Golden Notebook. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Notebooks: 3
Free Women: 5