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Baldwin's Notes To A Native Son

1738 words - 7 pages

“If the relationship of father to son could really be reduced to biology, the whole earth would blaze with the glory of fathers and sons.” This quotation by James Arthur Baldwin helps to bring about one of the main points of his essay, “Notes of a Native Son.” Baldwin’s composition was published in 1955, and based mostly around the World War II era. This essay was written about a decade after his father’s death, and it reflected back on his relationship with his father. At points in the essay, Baldwin expressed hatred, love, contempt, and pride for his father, and Baldwin broke down this truly complex relationship in his analysis. In order to do this, he wrote the essay as ...view middle of the document...

Here Baldwin connected the death and violence of the civil rights riots and his father’s death, to the destruction of pride in his father and himself. Baldwin admitted throughout the essay that he had hatred for his father. The ideas of hatred and apocalypse are repeated in this paragraph. The repetition of these evil words showed the relationship between the end of two worlds that affected Baldwin. Baldwin felt that his father left him with the world around him crumbling and his own world as well. Baldwin used the central idea of death to tie together the two ideas of the riots and his father’s death.

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 had simply picked something up. Negroes were not served there” (69). African Americans were not being served at these types of places in the south. His story at that moment switched from I to Negroes, a personal story to a more general story. That transition from private to public allowed Baldwin to reflect his analytical thoughts on the situation at hand. The ill-treatment of African Americans in the south provoked Baldwin to say, “There is not one Negro alive who does not have this rage in his blood” (70). The rage that Baldwin spoke of was the anger and frustration that built up in African Americans. Baldwin related the facts that African Americans were losing jobs, being kicked out of restaurants, and being forced to leave stores to the rage they felt in consequence. He went on to analyze the destruction this could have on race relations. The weaving of analysis and narrative continued when Baldwin shared a story from his life about how he enacted rage in New Jersey. Baldwin encountered the Klu Klux Klan and was nearly beaten, but he just narrowly escaped. This action inflicted rage that caused him to lash out at a waitress in a restaurant who refused to serve him. Again, his own story was similar to African Americans who went through what he did. Transitioning from public to private events allowed Baldwin to transition between analysis and narrative. These shifts were also accomplished by relating his own personal stories to the stories of many African Americans.

World War II exemplified another public event that many African Americans had to deal with the...

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