James Baldwin is known to be one of the best essay writers in the twentieth century who wrote on a few topics including race, discrimination, sexuality and most of all his personal experiences. In “Notes of a Native Son”, he uses two main strategies to get his point across. First, he likes to tell a story in a narrative view. Following is normally his analysis of the event. He describes the event and then gives his theory on the matter. By doing this, he grants the reader a chance to decipher the meaning. His interpretation may not be what the reader’s is. He likes to argue and provides the basis for his argument in “Notes of a Native Son”. Throughout the essay he talks about himself and his father, their relationship and how their interactions influence his final feelings toward his father. He also integrates public incidents during those times into the essay. This method presents the reader with an opportunity to understand the race issue at that time.
This essay is about part of his life. In the beginning he starts with his father’s death. It was coincidental that the funeral was on his Baldwin’s nineteenth birthday. Mr. Baldwin, his father, and his wife conceived a child near the end of his life. This child was born a few hours after his death. Here Baldwin presents a binary of life and death, along with other examples, that he executes throughout the essay. In retrospection, he perceives his father’s death as a time of sadness and regrets not having a healthier rapport with him and he mentions that his siblings are happy that their father will never come home again. He tells us about the race riots in Detroit and New Jersey and criticizes afterwards. These happenings show the influen...
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...art. Baldwin does this using his own personal experiences and tying them into the greater picture of society. All the stories he has expressed in “Notes of a Native Son” can be paralleled with what was going on during that period. He even explained the riots in that sense for the reader.
In the first paragraph he states that they drove his father to the cemetery over smashed plate glass (63). This was a result of the hatred and despair felt by the rioters. This visual is a representation of the hatred that had helped to kill his father. The abhorrence that played a role in the death of his father, he feared would do the same to him. The end of the essay shows Baldwin letting go of this hatred and despair.
Baldwin, James. “Notes of a Native Son.” 1995. James Baldwin: Collected Essays.
Ed. Toni Morrison. New York: Library of America, 1998. 63-84.
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