James Baldwin: on What It's Really Like

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James Baldwin: On What it’s Really Like

In James Baldwin’s “A Stranger in the Village” and “Sonny’s Blues,” our eyes are opened to the struggles of African Americans in the 1950’s. Baldwin writes about the struggles with identity, social acceptance, and racial discrimination. It is apparent that Baldwin has a very strong opinion behind the reasoning for these three struggles and he elaborates on each throughout these two stories. Through bringing these themes to life, he helps us to have a closer glimpse of what it was like to be like him. First and foremost, Baldwin’s writings deal with the overwhelming sense of identity, or the search for identity. In “A Stranger in the Village,” he states, “At the root of the American Negro problem is the necessity of the American white man to find a way of living with the Negro in order to be able to live with himself.” (pg. 1712) In this statement, Baldwin is commenting on the search for identity through the idea of what white people need to live with themselves. The black Americans can only find identity once the white man figures out how to live with them having one. He goes on to say, “…the white man’s motive was the protection of his identity; the black man was motivated by the need to establish an identity.” (pg. 1712) Because black Americans have had to endure so much struggle and decades of anonymity through the time fo slavery, at this point, they are starting from the ground up to find out who they are as a people and as a community. Even further, they must find out who they are as a people and as a community, and how that fits into the white society surrounding them. In “Sonny’s Blues,” we read about more of a personal identity struggle, rather than a racial identity struggle as a pair of brother try to find out who they are and what the mean to each other. Sonny is a heroin addict who only feels complete when he is surrounded by music. His older brother, the narrator, a teacher, does not understand this,...
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