Born in 1924, James Baldwin grew up in Harlem during harsh racism and the infamous Jim Crow laws. In addition to being surrounded by hate crimes and riots, Baldwin had a rough relationship with his father, who died when Baldwin was only nineteen. Twelve years after his father?s death, Baldwin wrote an essay, entitled ?Notes of a Native Son,? which described the events that took place around the time of his father?s death. Being one of his trademark talents, he also inserted periods of analysis while narrating the story. These insights, often reflections on his life and actions, illustrate the importance of learning to truly understand the society in which one lives in order to react appropriately to one?s current situation in life.
James Baldwin noted at the beginning of his essay that he really began thinking about his life and his father?s life when his father passed (63). Just like most rebellious teenagers, he did not always understand his father?s intentions when he was being warned about drugs, white people in general, and other activities that he was specifically warned about and kept away from. Arguments were of course inevitable, and their relationship worsened because James Baldwin kept silent. In fact, the one time that he can remember when they had a real chat together was when his father asked him if he really wanted to write instead of being a preacher, like his father (80). Looking back on his childhood, James Baldwin realized that he did not really take any time to get to know his own father, and once he died it was too late.
Baldwin also added some analysis about father and son relationships, noting that ?It seems to be typical of Ameri...
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...is a commonplace? (84). Back in the forties and fifties, and still today, life isn?t fair, and there still exists strong hatred between certain groups of people. Denial of the way society was or is prevents people from taking control of their lives and growing to become better people despite their respective situation. Baldwin described that personal growth as a continuing fight against those injustices by pushing for complete equality amongst everyone in one?s own life (84). Hatred and discrimination still exist today, but because so many people fought for equality over the past sixty years, changes have occurred to make the pain of realizing how society really was, and how it has become, more bearable.
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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