The Fire Next Time
Through the course of time, large groups of people have been enslaved by superior cultures. The Jews, whipped to build the great pyramids for the Egyptians, slave men who were forced to fight and die as gladiators in the Roman coliseum, and the Africans who were sold by their own people to the Europeans, all had to endure the cruelties of slavery. The author and narrator, James Baldwin has a constant tone of anger toward the white society through out the book. After thoroughly reading this book, I have concluded that Baldwin’s message about race in America is that the only way the country as a whole will prosper is to come together as one. He realizes that having animosity toward the white American society will not get him anywhere, and instead transcends his hatred in order to find love.
In the author’s first letter, he is writing to his nephew. He refers to him as his nephew, but it is really the younger James Baldwin. In this letter there is a clear tone of anger, in attempt to warn his nephew about the horrors he will be confronted with. The author tells him that he will face restrictions on the development of himself just because of his race. The white people will react very strongly against the black people who are determined to change the way in which they are treated in society. The whites have always been against change, especially race related. The whites have grown up their whole lives with this type of racial culture, and anything that threatened to change their way of normalcy would be completely shunned. “Please try to be clear...through the storm which rages about your youthful head today, about the reality which lies behind the words acceptance and integration. There is no reason for you to try to become like white people and there is no basis whatever for their impertinent assumption that they must accept you. The really terrible thing...is that you must accept them" (pg. 22). This passage comes from the letter to his nephew, My Dungeon Shook. I believe this passage to exemplify Baldwin’s aim through out the book. First, Baldwin is acknowledging to his nephew that he will face much adversity because of his color. He says that there is much more to the words acceptance and integration than what he already thinks he knows, and no matter his accomplishments, he will always be judged. Baldwin repeatedly tells his nephew that he mustn’t try to fit in with the white people and be proud of who he is. In this passage, the reader feels a sense of anger that is triggered when the author says that we must accept the whites even though they will never accept us. The author even says it himself about how he wishes he didn’t feel anger and that he could take as much pride in America as it deserves. The hatred and racism that Baldwin has felt at the hands of the white society has made him have an even greater dislike toward American society. I am sure that at some point, Baldwin felt that black society would never be able to gain full equal rights because of the overwhelming power the whites had. Not only is Baldwin addressing his words to his nephew, but to all the young black men as well. He describes them as being angry, rebellious, challenged, and anxious to bring on change.
“We must learn to accept them”, the author says. Interestingly, the author shifts from a strong tone of anger and hatred to a more loving attitude toward the white society. He believes that no matter what, the whites will not accept the Negro. However, if you feed them love, the whites will eventually grow to respect the blacks. In section two, the author dives deep into religion. He goes in depth about Christianity and how it has driven him to try and accept the whites. He says how nothing can bring out his joy and passion like church life does. Through Baldwin’s Christian morals, he believes that his theory of the “Negro Problem” can be transcended by compassion and love. In this...
Bibliography: Shi, David E.
For the record: a documentary history of America / David E. Shi and Holly A. Mayer. --- Fifth Edition
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