The essay “Notes of a Native Son” takes place at a very volatile time in history. The story was written during a time of hate and discrimination toward African Americans in the United States. James Baldwin, the author of this work is African American himself. His writing, along with his thoughts and ideas were greatly influenced by the events happening at the time. At the beginning of the essay, Baldwin makes a point to mention that it was the summer of 1943 and that race riots were occurring in Detroit. The story itself takes place in Harlem, a predominantly black area experiencing much of the hatred and inequalities that many African-Americans were facing throughout the country. This marks the beginning of a long narrative section that Baldwin introduces his readers to before going into any analysis at all.
Throughout Baldwin’s essay he strategically weaves narrative, analytical, and argumentative selections together. The effect that Baldwin has on the reader when using this technique is extremely powerful. Baldwin combines both private and public affairs in this essay, which accentuates the analysis and argument sections throughout the work. Baldwin’s ability to shift between narrative and argument so smoothly goes hand in hand with the ideas and events that Baldwin discusses in his essay. He includes many powerful and symbolic binaries throughout the essay that help to develop the key themes and principles pertaining to his life. The most powerful and important binaries that appear in this essay are Life and Death.
The key themes of Baldwin’s essay are love, hatred, rage, and anger. These themes quickly transform into recurring strands that Baldwin applies throughout his essay. These ...
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... in the last paragraph of the essay. Here, he experiences an awakening. By combining heart and hatred in the same sentence, Baldwin weaves the terms that were once binaries into strands. He makes the terms fit together, rather than making them clash. Baldwin says, “This fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair" (84). It is his duty to free his heart of any hatred and despair that he has experienced. He comes to realize that injustice is commonplace among mankind and that he must continue to fight it. The fight begins in his heart, implying that he must let his heart be free of hatred and despair before he can begin to fight.
Baldwin, James. “Notes of a Native Son.” 1955. James Baldwin: Collected Essays. Ed. Toni Morrison. New York: Library of America, 1998. 63-84.
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