||This thesis uses the Defense of Marriage Act as a lens through which to view the formation and disruption of gay and lesbian identity in three texts: Horatio Alger's Ragged Dick series, Patricia Highsmith's The Talented Mr. Ripley , and Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House . Beyond its immediate legal effects, the Act formulates a code of estoppel that prevents the formation of a gay or lesbian legal subject. The comparison of these texts to the Act reveals that they share a common aesthetic: each of these texts depicts the gay or lesbian as an individual that struggles but fails to achieve an identity and treats this paradox as its chief marker. The comparison also shows how these writers all treat gender and sexuality as contingent, a feature especially surprising in Alger's texts. Lastly, the comparison illuminates the strategies Highsmith and Jackson use to represent same-sex desire.