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Giovanni’s Room

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Giovanni’s Room

Giovanni’s Room

In James Baldwin’s second novel published, we meet a young American called David. He has left his home country to live in Paris. In the first meeting with this man, he stares out a window and thinks about his life. Even this early in the book we get an impression of everything not being in its right place. This is where emptiness lives.

As Davis starts to tell about his life as a young boy in America, he lets us know about his mother dying far too young, and him being raised by his father and aunt. David’s dad is stereotype of a man and their emotions. He and his son never have a close relationship. Even when David gets hurt in an accident, his father doesn't want him to cry. He wants him to be a man, a manly man and not a Sunday teacher.

One summer day, David is hanging out with his friend Joey. This ends out be David’s first sexual encounter with another person. The next day he is very much ashamed and scared and deserts Joey, even though he’s got strong emotions for him. When he starts school that fall he starts hanging out with new people, starts to drink and date girls. This is when the deceit begins.

Somewhere along the road, David decides to leave for Paris. He’s tired of imitating his father’s manly behaviour and runs from the problem he is refusing to acknowledge. In this new country, David meets Hella, a fellow American who, like him self, also is searching for a meaning in life. He tries so hard to fulfil what is expected of him as a man and an American, and decides to propose to this girl who he finds fascinating and exciting. By making his circumstances as “normal” as possible, he believes it will make him “normal” as well. In the book David says it like this: ‘I suppose that’s why I asked her to marry me: to give myself something to be moored to.’

His plan does not work, though. Hella leaves for Spain to think over the proposal, and he is left in France, all alone. This is when Giovanni makes his appearance. He is handsome and Italian and even though David refuses to admit it, he is very attracted to this young, dark man. After a while he ends up in his bedroom where he stays for several weeks. That he is having a homosexual affair is tearing on David, and he despises Giovanni as well as he loves him. In the book, David is saying to him self: ‘The beast which Giovanni awakened in me would never go to sleep again; but one day I would not be with Giovanni anymore’. When he finds joy in Giovanni's room, it quickly becomes clear that it cannot last, and that love does not always conquer all, and that it actually stands no chance against fear and self-delusion. He is fighting a constant battle against something he can’t remove or ignore.

David’s inauthenticity leaves him always feeling unsatisfied. He doesn’t belong anywhere, not amongst heterosexual or homosexual. Everywhere he’s a stranger. I truly believe that David knew deep down inside what needed to be done to finally become happy, but he also knew that this was a decision he could not live with. If there was such a thing as a pill to make him be the man his father wanted him to be, David would have taken it in a heartbeat. He wished to be apart of the American dream where he worked to support his good lady and their four delightful children as they lived happily ever after. Unfortunately, he did not fit into this dream, and that was something he refused to neither realize nor accept.

We have to remember that homosexuality was not a common and acceptable thing in the US in the 50s. James Baldwin wrote this book with a purpose, and that purpose was to direct attention to the despair of oppressing a big part of you, trying to be live by the norms accepted at that time. Baldwin, him self, was a gay man, and probably knew what he was talking about. He meant that the worst crime in the world was being inauthentic, in other words not being true to your self.

After his weeks with Giovanni, David gets a letter from Hella, the girl who left him to find her self in Spain. She is now returning to Paris to accept his proposal. This forces the young American to choose; the convenience of choosing a girl or the happiness he has with Giovanni. . He wants to be an ordinary husband

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