In this essay, James Baldwin explores the complexities of both race relationships and familial relationships. Concerning his relationship with his father, Baldwin admits toward the beginning of the essay: “We had got on badly, partly because we shared, in our different fashions, the vice of stubborn pride.” This admission sets the tone for the rest of the essay, an idea of both opposition and similarity in this relationship.
Baldwin seemed to spend most of his childhood struggling against his father. His father wanted him to preach like he had while Baldwin wanted to write. He grew up in Harlem where he was in the majority and, against his father’s advice, easily befriended white people. When he moved to New Jersey, he encountered an environment much less friendly to Blacks. He became the minority in a segregated town. The poor treatment he received in New Jersey created a bitterness in Baldwin that matched the bitterness that his father had. His father’s bitterness had become his. He also does not act unlike the paranoid schizophrenic that his father was when he displayed some of his father’s violence at yet another restaurant’s refusal to serve him because he was Black.
In the first few sentences of the essay, Baldwin notes that his sister was born on the same day that his father died and that his father was buried on Baldwin’s birthday. Both of these events suggest a rebirth of sorts and, in a way, the essay ends in a rebirth. At the time of his father’s death, Baldwin has finally come to understand him and realize their similarities. Baldwin’s father has, in effect, been reborn in him.
Show MoreJames Baldwin was born in Harlem in a time where his African American decent was enough to put more challenges in front of him than the average (white) American boy faced. His father was a part of the first generation of free black men. He was a bitter, overbearing, paranoid preacher who refused change and hated the white man. Despite of his father, his color, and his lack of education, James Baldwin grew up to be a respected author of essays, plays, and novels. While claiming that he was one of the best writers of the era could be argued either way, it is hard to argue the fact that he was indeed one of the most well-known authors of the time. One of his intriguing skills as a writer is his ability to intertwine narration and analysis in…show more content…
Very near the beginning of this essay is the first obvious point where he does this. In the third paragraph, Baldwin begins talking about his father and how they rarely spoke and didn’t get along with each other. Then he transitions to an analytical statement, “It seems to be typical of life in America, where opportunities, real and fancied, are thicker than anywhere else on the globe, that the second generation has no time to talk to the first (63).” An example of the vise versa case occurs just a few paragraphs later, in a paragraph which starts out in an analytical tone, where Baldwin spends a moment describing his father. The first half of this paragraph explains how Baldwin saw his father as very handsome, and how although his father was beautiful, he didn’t know he was beautiful. Then goes into narration about his father when Baldwin was growing up, “He was not a young man when we were growing up and he had already suffered many kinds of ruin; in his outrageously demanding and protective way he loved his children, who were black like him and menaced, like him; and all these things sometimes showed in his face when he tried, never to my knowledge with any success, to establish contact with any of us (64).” And the rest of that paragraph continues the narration about growing up with his father. This pattern can be seen in many other parts of the essay but it is only necessary to mention this couple, as the content of the quotes is