Baldwin's Stepfather in Notes to a Native Son Essay

Baldwin's Stepfather in Notes to a Native Son Essay

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The Effects on a Narrative Son From His Stepfather

In order to effectively analyze something, it is necessary to thoroughly examine and discuss the subject. James Baldwin does this in his essay “Notes of a Native Son” by describing his experiences growing up with his stepfather while weaving in discussion. Baldwin’s comments during these breaks in his stories draw conclusions and generalizations about himself, his relationship with his father, and its influence on James Baldwin. He uses this analysis to discover and help the audience understand how he was and is affected by his stepfather.

Baldwin’s stepfather was very quiet and remote in his relationships with his children. In his essay, Baldwin presents many stories portraying examples of this which all appear early on in the essay. One of the most important stories about his childhood with his stepfather is when they walk back home from church and have their only meaningful conversation together. Baldwin writes that the opportunities in America are “thicker” than any other place and as a result of this “the generation has no time to talk to the first”(63). Unlike this observation by Baldwin, his stepfather didn’t avoid contact with the world because of the available opportunities. Instead, Baldwin’s stepfather kept himself away from his children and the world because of his immense anger and hatred. Baldwin remembers his father “sitting at the window, locked up in his terrors; hating and fearing every living soul including his children who had betrayed him, too, by reaching towards the world which had despised him”(66). James Baldwin’s stepfather feels extremely rejected by the world and as a result hates everything in it and in contact with it. He feels betra...


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...s to be hatred, as described in earlier passages but in this case Baldwin shows that they are ultimately caused by pride.

Baldwin uses his narration and analysis to realize that although he ignored his father during his childhood, he could have benefitted by learning something from his warnings. In the final sentence of the essay Baldwin writes, “I wished that he had been beside me so that I could have searched his face for the answers which only the future would give me now” (84). Baldwin realizes that through similar experiences he and his stepfather have learned much about the world. He wishes that he could still learn from his stepfather but knows that he must now rely on his future experiences.

Works Cited

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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