There is a very thin line between love and hate in James Baldwin’s essay “Notes of a Native Son.” Throughout this essay James Baldwin continually makes references to life and death, blacks and whites, and love and hate. He uses his small experiences to explain a much larger, more complicated picture of life. From the first paragraph of the essay to the last paragraph, Baldwin continually makes connections on his point of view on life; beginning with the day his father died, to the time that his father was buried. James Baldwin is an outstanding author, who creatively displays his ability to weave narration and analysis throughout his essays.
The idea of relating public and private events in Baldwin’s own experiences is instituted later in the essay in order to transition from narrative to analysis. Baldwin started telling a story about when he lived in New Jersey before the time of his father’s death. He talked about his personal treatment by white people in the south, a first hand account of the racism of that particular era. He learned of the hostility of the Jim Crow Laws inflicted on African Americans during that time period. His story was analogous to nearly all African Americans at that point. When Baldwin lived in New Jersey, he became exposed to the racism of the south that occurred in restaurants and diners. During one of those experiences he wrote, “I
The text continues with Baldwin warning his nephew about the struggle he is going to endure for just being born black and nothing else. Also telling him that he must survive for his children and his children’s children. He warns him, telling him that this country will set him up for failure and that they will try to control where he could go, what he could do, and how he could do it. He continues to articulate that he must stay true to himself because no matter how much he tries to resemble white people they will never accept him. He later states how corrupt the white mind is, for example, he says, “They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for so many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they
On one hand James Baldwin is addressing his letter to his nephew, but on the other hand the text is also applicable to the entire black community who is oppressed by society; and to the whites who need to recognize the need for equality. Baldwin addresses the letter to the teenager, James, and additionally descriptively clarifies how this deadly situation applies to many dark-skinned men. Contrastingly, the novelist realizes how the privileged population will hear this message as well, which Baldwin makes clear when he metaphorically states, “I hear the chorus of the innocents screaming, ‘No! This is not true! How bitter you are!’”(Baldwin
In paragraphs 7 and 8, Baldwin alludes to his hostility towards white people. Baldwin supposes that there is an immense distinction between being the first white person to be seen by black people and to be the first black person to be seen by white people. Baldwin asserts that it is not fair that a white man can come to a new
African Americans have to strive extremely hard to be successful and obtain a place in America. When reading Baldwin’s statement it seems much like Martin Luther King Jr. statement: “One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land”(3). African Americans are trying to obtain their place in American society but are restricted to the area that the white Americans set aside for them. Both Martin Luther King Jr. and James Baldwin are striving to make a difference to better America by publicly sharing their emotions.
James Baldwin is known to be one of the best essay writers in the twentieth century who wrote on a few topics including race, discrimination, sexuality and most of all his personal experiences. In “Notes of a Native Son”, he uses two main strategies to get his point across. First, he likes to tell a story in a narrative view. Following is normally his analysis of the event. He describes the event and then gives his theory on the matter. By doing this, he grants the reader a chance to decipher the meaning. His interpretation may not be what the reader’s is. He likes to argue and provides the basis for his argument in “Notes of a Native Son”. Throughout the essay he talks about himself and his father,
Baldwin determines that violence and racial separatism are not acceptable solutions for achieving “power”. Baldwin believes that black people will only be able to achieve lasting influence in America if they love and accept white people. In contrast, writing 52 years after Baldwin, Coats tells his own son to “struggle” but not
Baldwin, however, describes his father as being a very black-like “African tribal chieftain” (64) who was proud of his heritage despite the chains it locked upon him. He is shown to be one with good intentions, but one who never achieved the positive outcome intended. His ultimate downfall was his paranoia such that “the disease of his mind allowed the disease of his body to destroy him” (66). Baldwin relates the story of a white teacher with good intentions and his father’s objection to her involvement in their lives because of his lack of trust for any white woman. His father’s paranoia even extended to Baldwin’s white high school friends. These friends, although they could be kind, “would do anything to keep a Negro down” (68), and they believed that the “best thing to do was to have as little to do with them as possible” (68). Thus, Baldwin leaves the reader with the image of his father as an unreasonable man who struggled to blockade white America from his life and the lives of his children to the greatest extent of his power. Baldwin then turns his story to focus on his own experience in the world his father loathed and on his realization that he was very much like his father.
James Baldwin in “Notes of a Native Son” writes about the death of his father and his struggle in America during segregation. He also reveals that he didn’t have a very good relationship with his ill father. Throughout the essay there is a repetition of bitterness. Also, Baldwin’s experiences reveal his purpose for writing the essay. One passage that is especially revealing is on page 222 which says, “When he died I had been away from home for a little over a year. In that year I had had time to become aware of the meaning of all my father’s bitter warnings, had discovered the secret of his proudly pursed lips and rigid carriage: I had discovered the weight of white people in the world. I saw that this had been for my ancestors and now would be for me an awful thing to live with and that the bitterness which had helped to kill my father could also kill me.” This passage reveals how Baldwin’s relationship with his father, and his father’s warnings help demonstrate how hatred can cause negative effects on African Americans.
The tone Baldwin utilizes in his essay directly duplicate the roughness of Black Language, specifically his shorter sentences and blunt statements about the ignorance of Americans. Baldwin concludes his essay with “ it may very well be both the child, and his elder, have concluded that they have nothing whatever to learn from the people of a country [United States] that has managed to learn so little” (47). While usually highlighting the importance of Black English, in this case Baldwin damages the reputation of American values and instead
In The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin addressed the problem of racism that existed in the early 1960s. He gives very powerful accounts of his life growing up in Harlem in the 1930s and 40s. Throughout the book he gives accounts of how whites, blacks, Christians, and Muslims all can be blamed for the racial tensions that existed in the early 1960s. While Baldwin spends much of the criticism on whites, Christians, and Jews, and their inability to give up their hold on the political, financial, and religions power of the country, he also holds the Black and Muslim communities responsible for not working harder to make things better. Baldwin does not feel that the Whites are totally accountable for the racial situation that exists in the
Baldwin continues on and says that blacks were being oppressed everywhere. “…Negro girls who set upon a white girl in the subway because…she was stepping on their toes. Indeed she was, all over the nation” (73). Not only does this portray the ever growing tension felt among African Americans in a certain area, it expresses the tension felt across the nation. African Americans everywhere were still continuously looked down upon, causing agitation, which was the current social condition blacks and whites faced.
Jensen (2005), argues how people have a discriminating inclination on how they see history. When history is being used to make an ostentatious gesture of the past, it becomes vital. Jensen, (2005) also refers to the “new White People’s Burden,” (p. 93) as they understand that they are the problem and need to face what reality really means, and act based on that understanding. In essence, Baldwin wanted to help his nephew survive as a black man in America, with a more sympathetic concept of racial tautness.
James Baldwin is a renowned and celebrated African American writer who came to prominence during the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. The Fire Next Time is often regarded as one of his best works and cemented his role as a leading spokesman for the African American community. Baldwin spoke out against all kinds of discrimination. Baldwin’s ultimate message was that the redeeming power of love, understanding and self-determination would free African Americans of the “Negro Problem” (a euphemism for racial tension at the time) and the mythical idea of white racial superiority (often held by whites). In The Fire Next Time, Baldwin dives deep into the African American experience with a bold,