James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room Essay

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James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room


James Baldwin’s novel Giovanni’s Room is titled such for the purpose of accentuating the symbolism of Giovanni’s room. Within the novel Giovanni’s room is portrayed with such characteristics as being Giovanni’s prison, symbolic of Giovanni’s life, holding the relationship between Giovanni and David, being a metaphor of homosexuality for David and being a tomb underwater. These different portrayals of Giovanni’s room are combined within the novel to create an overall negative metaphor of homosexuality as perpetuated by society. These different portrayals of Giovanni’s room are dirty, suffocating and restricting; Baldwin is showing the reader that homosexuality can be understood as all of these things
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Giovanni’s room, with all of his life packed into it, is a torture for him and anyone with him.

As much as a prison cell is a place of captivity it is also a place for punishment, which is also directly connected to Giovanni’s room. David describes the disorder of Giovanni’s room as “not a matter of habit or circumstance or temperament; it was a matter of punishment and grief” (87). David directly identifies the room’s clutter as a punishment, with all of its contents being Giovanni’s life stuffed into one small room suffocating him. Giovanni’s room is a punishment in that it holds him back from any other life he could make. Giovanni is crammed into his small single room and it can be understood as a storage space for his life, which can be connected to a closet; where things are also stored and never really brought out of; another shadowing of a prison cell. David calls Giovanni’s room “a closet of a room” (142). A closet is also small and crammed with a person’s life, just like Giovanni’s room is full of his life. Giovanni’s’ room is a cell, a closet and a tomb containing his accumulated life.

As well as being a prison for Giovanni the man, Giovanni’s room is also the embodiment of his life. The room holds all of Giovanni’s things, the accumulation of his past and present. In the novel, when David is first brought to Giovanni’s room, Giovanni says that all the…