“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 if he were in the past, still with his father, but reflecting on the events of the era, both private and public, from his point of view. He partially accomplished this since he experienced events of the era first hand, showing that only an African American could have written the essay as he did. James Baldwin throughout the essay hovered from his own personal life to the world around him and his father. Baldwin weaves between narration and analysis in order to show that his own experiences dealing with the public world and his private world were similar to many other Americans at that time.
Evidence of Baldwin’s ability to connect public events to his personal life appeared right away in the very first paragraph of the essay. Baldwin changed from story of his father’s death, a private event, to the Detroit and Harlem riots of the civil rights movement, a public event. He linked the two together through the death of his father and, “One of the bloodiest race riots of the century” (63). Baldwin immediately started to analy...
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... what occurred privately and in the rest of the United States. Baldwin put his own personal thoughts and reflections into what happened in his life and the lives of everyone else like him. Baldwin himself, being African American, was another one of the reasons he was able to pull off these transitions. He related his own personal stories of what took place in his life during the troubled times of the civil rights movement to the rest of the general public. The stories Baldwin had of his father correlated to the events African Americans faced in the same time period. All these things combined allowed Baldwin to transition between narrative and analysis keeping the reader on edge and attentive.
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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