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James Baldwin:"The Rockpile", essay by Jessica Ruelle

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James Baldwin:"The Rockpile", essay by Jessica Ruelle

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"The Rockpile" by Jessica Ruelle

"The Rockpile" was written by James Baldwin, a black American writer of the 20th century. This short story takes place in a street of Harlem around the 1930's. James Baldwin shows us, through the life of a black family, the conflicts that can appear in human relationships, but also the presence of temptation and sin. This essay will analyse the themes that are mentioned above, but also how, by some particular literary style effect, the writer plunges his readers in his own world.

One of the main themes is family relationships. We are in a Protestant family in which the father does not seem to be very often at home. But he still has a predominance in his family's life. John seems to be really scared of him, more than Roy. This is probably due to the fact that Gabriel does not love John as much as he loves Roy, because John is not his son. Gabriel knows what is wrong and what is right, because he represents God, he is a Reverend. Therefore, he should be a good father, but he beats John and Elizabeth. In fact, it seems obvious that they are in danger from the moment Gabriel is back home. "John stood just before him; it seemed to her astonished vision just below him, beneath his fist, his heavy shoe. The child stared at the man in fascination and terror" (p.15). John stands before Gabriel as if he was before God, the one who punishes you for your sins. Elizabeth uses Delilah as a shield twice: the first time when she comes down to tell Gabriel what happened, and the second time after she has told him what she thought about him. Another point is that both of the parents overreact to what happened to Roy. They react as if he was going to die when he just has a superficial scar. The children have got not enough freedom. The only freedom they enjoy is to sit on the fire escape when they father is not at home; if he was home, they would not have any freedom at all. To summarize, this family is characterized by the presence of a...