Born in Harlem in 1924, James Baldwin grew to be a complex man with many aspects. As an avid reader as a child, Baldwin soon developed the skills to become one of the most talented and strong writers of his time. His first novel was written in 1953 and was called “Go Tell it On the Mountain” and received critical acclaim. More great work from this novelist, essayist, and playwright were to come, one of which was “Notes of a Native Son,” which was first published in Harper’s Magazine in 1955 and was also first known as “Me and My House.” In “Notes of a Native Son,” Baldwin exercises his many talents as an essayist in how he manages to weave narratives and arguments throughout the essay. He is also able to use many of his experiences to prove his points. Baldwin effectively interlaces his narratives, arguments, and experiences so as to reach his central idea and to advocate the overall moral that he has learned to his audience. This is what makes Baldwin so unique in his work: his ability to successfully moralize all people he comes in contact with.
“Notes of a Native Son” is faceted with many ideas and arguments. The essay begins with Baldwin recounting July 29, 1943. The day his father died and his mother bore her last child (63). Baldwin shares his fathers’ past and of the hate and bitterness that filled him and how Baldwin realizes that it may soon fill him also. Baldwin spends the rest of the essay mostly analyzing his experiences and the behavior and mentality of his father, of whom he seemed to dislike. He comes to the conclusion that one must hold true two ideas: “. . . acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is and men as they are: in light of this idea... injustice is...
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...w had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair. This intimation made my heart heavy…” (84). Now that his father is gone, he wonders how strong he will remain. How will he maintain his strength?
His father gave him what he needed to break free from hatred and to be strong, but now Baldwin desires that his father was still there with him to keep giving him what he needs. To keep giving him all the answers, so as not to lose all of the strength that keeps the rage in his blood from overflowing. To keep him away from the disease that ultimately brought down his father, and if he loses that strength, he will ultimately bring down himself into his own destruction.
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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