Going to Meet the Man: African American Literature Essay

Going to Meet the Man: African American Literature Essay
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Even though slavery is considered to be the past, its echo is still heard in the present because it is impossible simply to pretend that it has never happened. There was too much pain expressed in various ways. American African literature is one of such fields that keeps memories and emotions of people who knew what slavery was from their own experiences, not from books. The period of time when American-African culture started growing counts many names of talented writers but James Baldwin takes a special place in that list. For me, the most significant is that his works contain autobiographical moments, which makes them very vivid and leaves no place for indifference. Digging for the nature of the author’s emotions, I agree that “[s]ecrets hidden at the heart of midnight are simply waiting to be dragged to the light, as, on some unlucky high noon, they always are. But secrets shrouded in the glare of candor are bound to defeat even the most determined and agile inspector for the light is always changes and proves that the eyes cannot be trusted” (Baldwin).

Reading his books I am questioning myself about different aspects of morality looking for the answers to questions that he touches in his books, trying to make parallels between his characters and himself. Subsequently, I realized that a black guy from “Going to Meet the Man”, who is lynched, is associated with the author himself but figuratively. There are some similarities between James Baldwin’s life and between the events that happened to that black guy. This might be so because being homosexual, he faces some problems with expressing himself and it prevents him from living his life to the full as there is a barrier that he cannot overcome in his real life. This problem is similar to the topic that is also arisen in “Giovanni’s Room”, “Go Tell It to the Mountain” and in “Another County” where his characters are struggling with defining themselves as homosexuals. He had to have enough courage to raise this issue at that moment because starting only from 1924 the first organization supporting the rights of homosexuals appeared in the USA. Nowadays our society is much more tolerable to others but still, it does not help to solve the problem of accepting people who are different from the majority. At that time, being Afro-American and talking about bi-curious meant a lot. As Alain Locke reveals, “… if in our lifetime the Negro should not be able to celebrate his full initiation into American democracy, he can at least, on the warrant of these things, celebrate the attainment of a significant and satisfying new phase of group development, and with it a spiritual Coming of Age” (631-634).

Additionally, “Going to Meet the Man” demonstrates another issue about bringing-up. Being a child, there are no stereotypes or differentiation between “good” and “bad” things but everyone is learning what it is basing on parents’ views and believes, first of all. James Baldwin reveals it very well with the description of the relationship of Jesse and his father whose influence was so meaningful that his son accepted Father’s views as his own ones. Even though a boy had a “black” friend, the authority of his parent, who was racist, presaged Jesse’s, believes for the future. For me it is important learning such a fact, because in my own life there are things that I take for granted, not giving a thought to its roots. But due to “Going to Meet the Man”, I realize that my parents set a good example for me to follow because from a very early age I was taught to appreciate others and not to divide people into two groups: “insiders” and “outsiders”. It has a positive imprint on my life because I have many international friends from all over the world who fulfill my own life with bright details that I appreciate. At the same time, in childhood, it is easy to believe everything because there is no understanding of many things, no experience. But there is always a chance to make an effort and to look at the beliefs from another side, first of all, getting to know yourself which is the most essential, not dependent on the color skin or other differences. Zora Neal Hurston explains in the best way, how important it is to remain yourself: “Among the thousand white persons, I am a dark rock surged upon, overswept by a creamy sea. I am surged upon and overswept, but through it all, I remain myself. When covered by the waters, I am; and the ebb but reveals me again” (116). A firm character is what Baldwin’s character is missing because it is possible to be born in a privileged family or society but the personality of each individual depends on how hard he or she is working on it:

We smile, but oh great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile,

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear a mask! (Dunbar)

It is possible to wear masks and to change them according to the situation, it is equally possible to pretend of being someone else for others to make certain impressions but there is no sense in fooling up yourself like Jesse was trying to do.

 “We have thought it advisable to show that the present system of chattel slavery in America undermines the entire social condition of man, so, as to prepare the reader for the following narrative of slave life, in that otherwise happen and prosperous country” (Brown). These words do not lose their relevance in the present giving everyone another chance to reconsider values and to ask questions in an attempt to find the answers. Having read “Going to Meet the Man”, most importantly, I was reminded to question my reality which is why, as the next step, I need to forward its messages further because knowledge doesn’t have any value if it is not shared.

Works Cited:

Baldwin, James. (1750). “Going to Meet the Man”. Web. 07 Jul. 2014

Brown, William Wells. Clotel, or, the President’s Daughter. Web. 07 Jul. 2014