James Baldwin and His 'Notes of a Native Son': Essay

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“To be negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time”, is a well-known quote by African-American novelist, playwright, and activist, James Baldwin. James Baldwin was a man whose upbringing, consciousness, and talent in writing put him on the path to becoming one of the best writers of the twentieth century. James Baldwin was a pillar of political activism. Ironically, despite the Civil Rights movement being known and led with a sense of heterosexuality and masculinity, James, being a homosexual, still was an influence in the movement. This contradiction, a lot of people believed might have hindered his effect. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, backed by an article that discusses him as a writer unlike any other of the time, to express the harsh truth of racial tension in America. Baldwin’s appearance on the cover of such a popular weekly is a testament to his importance and significance in the popular imagination, not just as a writer but as a civil rights activist. During the years of the movement, James Baldwin wrote essays and novels that directed a perspective of African-Americans' predicament. One of his famous works written at that time is a collection of essays 'Notes of a Native Son'.

'Notes of a Native Son' is a collection of ten essays published in 1955, mostly dealing with issues of race in America and Europe. In the title essay, 'Notes of a Native Son', James Baldwin juxtaposes his feelings with the death of his father— the end of a lifetime of racial bitterness— with images of Harlem in August 1943, despoiled after the controversial shooting of a black soldier from widespread rioting. Baldwin's description of his father seems very straightforward. He's very blunt, and he's not afraid to identify his father using negative adjectives. It shows the relationship between love and hate that they had. Baldwin portrayed his father in a bad way and revealed the depth of his knowledge about the personality of his father. However, deep inside, we can see that James Baldwin loves his father a lot, we see this during his father's funeral. When people started singing the favorite song of his father, the song immediately brought Baldwin to memories he had with his father when he was young. This scene shows that there are still good memories between Baldwin and his father, he just didn't want to admit it. Towards the end of the story, Baldwin begins to become aware of his violent feelings toward whites, and he realizes that he has to overcome his filial hatred with the death of his father, just as black and white Americans have to face their shameful history.

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James Baldwin's contributions to the world of literature undeniably created a new language and understanding of the black experience in America, political activism, and coming to terms with one’s self, spirituality, and moral values. So, in particular, in 'Notes of a Native Son' he not only reveals to the reader his feelings towards his father and his death but also raises the painful issue of racial segregation.

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James Baldwin and His ‘Notes of a Native Son’: Essay. (2024, February 09). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/james-baldwin-and-his-notes-of-a-native-son-essay/
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