James Baldwin's Life in Notes of a Native Son Essay

James Baldwin's Life in Notes of a Native Son Essay

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Cycles of Hatred

James Baldwin lived during an extremely tumultuous time where hatred ruled the country. Race riots, beatings, and injustice flooded the cities that he, as well as most African Americans, was forced to live with every day. Many people, out of fright, suppressed their opposition to the blatant inequalities of the nation. However, some people refused to let themselves be put down solely because of their skin color and so they publicly announced their opposition. One such person was James Baldwin, who voiced his opinion through writing short stories about his experiences growing up as a black man. In order to convey to the reader the unbearable nature of this troubled era, he traces his feelings of hatred for his father and his hatred towards society, which transform as he evaluates his experiences.

James Baldwin wrote “Notes of a Native Son” in the mid-1950s, right in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement while he resided in Harlem. At this time, Harlem housed many African Americans and therefore had amplified amounts of racially charged crimes compared to the rest of the country. Baldwin’s life was filled with countless encounters with hatred, which he begins to analyze in this text. The death of his father and the hatred and bitterness Baldwin feels for him serves as the focus of this essay. While Baldwin describes and analyzes his relationship with his father, he weaves in public racial episodes occurring simultaneously. He begins the story by relating the hatred he has for his father to the hatred that sparked the Harlem riots. He then internalizes various public events in order to demonstrate how hatred dominates the whole world and not only his own life. Baldwin freq...


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... came as a big shock. After having analyzed his feelings towards race relations in his life, his father’s interpretation of this passage now resembled that of his own. At the start of the essay Baldwin hated his father because his bitterness bothered him but he concludes with the desire to be with his father again. As he evaluates his experiences with racism alongside his feelings from the death of his father, he realizes that his father held correct opinions on white people and his whole life he hated the wrong person. James Baldwin perpetuated hate during his life by directing it at his father and didn’t even notice until he was hated himself; unfortunately, he lost that precious time with his father.

Works Cited

Baldwin, James. “Notes of a Native Son.” 1955. James Baldwin: Collected Essays. Ed. Toni Morrison. New York: Library of America, 1988. 63-84.

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