Lessons Learned from Notes to a Native Son

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Realizing What Society Really Is

Born in 1924, James Baldwin grew up in Harlem during harsh racism and the infamous Jim Crow laws. In addition to being surrounded by hate crimes and riots, Baldwin had a rough relationship with his father, who died when Baldwin was only nineteen. Twelve years after his father?s death, Baldwin wrote an essay, entitled ?Notes of a Native Son,? which described the events that took place around the time of his father?s death. Being one of his trademark talents, he also inserted periods of analysis while narrating the story. These insights, often reflections on his life and actions, illustrate the importance of learning to truly understand the society in which one lives in order to react
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(63). He spent so much time despising his father and staying away from him that he lost touch with the special bond between father and son. He could have absorbed so much more knowledge and been much happier in his childhood if he truly connected with his father, because his father had so many experiences and perspectives of his own which could have been shared with his son. The father-son relationship is a very important base of learning, for the son, about his environment, and since young Baldwin separated himself from his father, he lost that chance.

Although Baldwin did not really get to know his father, he began to look back on his life and realize that his father wanted only the best for him. His father would gloat with pride about how wonderful a preacher Baldwin was, during the short time that he was a preacher. James Baldwin could remember his father actually was ?grinning with pleasure? after his sermons, as opposed to the continuous look of disgust and hatred that he was used to as he was growing up (79). Instead of working off of the happier times that he had with his father, Baldwin ignored those times and focused on the many times where tensions occurred. His father also tried to spend time with his kids, but his ?inability to establish contact? made his kids actually fear whenever he was home (65). If he tried to play with them, they cried in fear; if he brought home a surprise, like a huge watermelon, it

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