James Baldwin's Notes of a Native Son

1020 Words5 Pages
James Baldwin's "Notes of a Native Son" demonstrates his complex and unique relationship with his father. Baldwin's relationship with his father is very similar to most father-son relationships but the effect of racial discrimination on the lives of both, (the father and the son) makes it distinctive. At the outset, Baldwin accepts the fact that his father was only trying to look out for him, but deep down, he cannot help but feel that his father was imposing his thoughts and experiences on him. Baldwin's depiction of his relationship with his father while he was alive is full of loathing and detest for him and his ideologies, but as he matures, he discovers his father in himself. His father's hatred in relation to the white American society had filled him with hatred towards his father. He realizes that the hatred inside both of them has disrupted their lives.

Baldwin's mind seems to be saturated with anger towards his father; there is a cluster of gloomy and heartbreaking memories of his father in his mind. Baldwin confesses that "I could see him, sitting at the window, locked up in his terrors; hating and fearing every living soul including his children who had betrayed him" (223). Baldwin's father felt let down by his children, who wanted to be a part of that white world, which had once rejected him. Baldwin had no hope in his relationship with his father. He barely recalls the pleasurable time he spent with his father and points out, "I had forgotten, in the rage of my growing up, how proud my father had been of me when I was little" (234). The cloud of anger in Baldwin's mind scarcely lets him accept the fact that his father was not always the cold and distant person that he perceived him to be. It is as if Baldwin has for...

... middle of paper ...

...and be prepared to bow our heads to injustice or demand "equal power" (238) and fight for our rights to the best of our abilities. Baldwin looks at his relationship with his father remorsefully and wishes his father was alive to guide him. Unlike his father, Baldwin decides to take on life as it comes and not run away from the world. He chooses a tough path, of keeping his "heart free of hatred and despair" (238) because he realizes that hatred will only isolate him from the people around him. Baldwin is unsure of how successful he will be and what the future holds for him, but he does hope of not having a secluded future like his father.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. "Notes of a Native Son." The Best American Essays of the Century.

Eds. Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan. New York: Houghton - Miffin:

2000. 220 – 238.
Open Document