Baldwin's Stepfather In Notes To A Native Son

1554 words - 6 pages

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 betrayed by the world and wants no more contact with it. Early on in the essay Baldwin establishes the quality of the relationship between Baldwin and his stepfather and shows why.

The funeral for James Baldwin’s stepfather was shortly after a very destructive riot (63). Baldwin begins with mentioning the results of this riot and then returns to describe it in detail just before the end of the essay. As a result of the riot, the streets that Baldwin traveled through during the course of that day were lined with stores that were looted and burned. Baldwin mentions the riot and its effects so early on to set a tone of anger and destruction which seems to Baldwin as an appropriate environment for his stepfather’s funeral. After giving a general introduction to the kind of person his stepfather was, he remarks, “He had lived and died in an intolerable bitterness of spirit and it frightened me as we drove him to the graveyard through ruined streets to see how powerful and overflowing this bitterness could be and to realize that this bitterness was now mine”(63). To Baldwin, the surrounding destruction seemed like the effect of someone as angry and hateful as his stepfather leaving the world. He also comes to the...

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