Notes of a Native Son focuses on the life story of James Baldwin. The essay discusses the family troubles between the author and his father as well as the challenge of racism in American society during the 1940s. Baldwin’s father was among the first free black men in the United States.Accordingly, he witnessed how whites mistreated slaves. Thus, like most African Americans of his generation, Baldwin’s father had a great hatred towards white people. This led him to warn his son to be careful of whites.
Baldwin, on the other hand, disliked his father’s attitude toward whites. He felt that his father was a flawed and complicated man, and therefore, rebelled against him. However, the author’s rebellion can be attributed to his lack of experience concerning the reality of the racial tension in the society around him. For instance, growing up in Harlem –an area mainly inhabited by African Americans, Baldwin had just a few white friends (Baldwin, 1984).Thus, he seemed to have ignored his father’s caution by making friends with whites, and this leads him into disagreeing.
However, Baldwin began to witness racism against black people when he moved to New Jersey. The town was dominated by white people, and thus, being a black man, Baldwin becomes the minority. In one instance, Baldwin found himself to be the only black person in a restaurant where everyone else was white.All but Baldwin got served (Baldwin, 1984).Further, the author encountered a similar situation when it came to bowling alleys, bars, and residential places.
The many instances of racial discrimination changed Baldwin’s view of whites. He began to understand the reality of racism and appreciate his father’s advice. Eventually, Baldwin began to develop the same hatred and bitterness for white people. Thus, by putting his personal story into the social context, Baldwin establishes that his father prepared him well for the future. Thus, in reality, Baldwin’s father lives on inside of him.
Baldwin, J. (1984). Notes of a native son (No. 39). Beacon Press.
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