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James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room Essay

1596 words - 6 pages

James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room

James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room: Function of Parents in the Identity
Struggle James Baldwin's novel, Giovanni's Room presents the struggle of
accepting homosexuality as one young man's true identity. One way in which
Baldwin presents this issue is through the character David and the forces of
his father and dead mother. David's father has an idealized vision of his son as
rough and masculine which leads David to reject his homosexual identity. He
feels his homosexuality inhibits him from becoming the rough and masculine
man his father desires. David's father fuels his son's struggle of accepting
homosexuality as true identity by expressing his ideal son as independent and
rugged; and his looming mother symbolizes David's true homosexual identity
and his inability to escape it. David cannot accept homosexuality as his true
identity because he feels that it goes against the definition of a "man" as
described by his father. David feels this way because he overheard his father
tell his aunt Ellen the following: "All I want for David is that he grow up to be
a man. And when I say a man, Ellen, I don't mean a Sunday school teacher"
(24). Baldwin seems to suggest that his father wants David to have manly
experiences like working hard and exploring the nature of women. He doesn't
want David to become a stiff and sheltered man like a Sunday school
teacher. After hearing his father say that, David feels that he has to hide his
homosexuality. His efforts to hide and deny his homosexuality propel him
farther into his struggle to accept his true identity. David's struggle mounts
when he hides his true identity from his father and tries to deny his
homosexuality to himself. Because David refuses to accept the fact that he is
gay, he constantly struggles to find a way to make himself believe that he is a
"man" as his father expects of him. He feels that his homosexuality holds him
back from becoming rugged and manly and decides to "allow no room in the
universe for something which shamed and frightened" (30) him. David admits
that he rejects his shameful homosexual identity and wants to believe that he
possesses manly qualities such as independence: "The vision I gave my father
of my life was exactly the vision in which I myself most desperately needed to
believe" (30). David manipulates his father into allowing him to go to France
by making him think that he could develop into the hard-working and tough
man that his father hopes for because he himself wants to believe it. In other
words, his father ingrains the notion of what a real man is, and so David
refuses to come to terms with the sexual feelings that he has...

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