Parental Influence

After our class discussion on how John and Gabriels’ relationship may have mirrored James and David Baldwin’s, I considered how parental relationships play a significant role in shaping who people grow up to become. Go Tell It on the Mountain encompasses many intersectional themes, including narratives on a coming of age, religious identity, sexual identity. It is evident that growing up in a racist and homophobic society outcasted Baldwin; perhaps not as evident is how the way people are raised can impact their perception and identity just as much as these other factors. We discussed how turbulent James and David Baldwin’s relationship was, noting that David Baldwin resented James and made it very clear that he wished James’s mother never had him. We often talk about how Baldwin’s racial, sexual, and religious identities ostracized him from general society, but not much about how this initial rejection from someone who was so impactful to him may have affected James Baldwin. Most of Baldwin’s work intersectionally approaches issues to observe how societal issues affect individuals. I think it is possible that neglectful, abusive parenting is a large issue at play in shaping Baldwin’s life perspective and work. Baldwin faced a lot of prejudice and oppression due to his intelligence, and identity. It is clear that those experiences affected his work; I think it is also plausible to suggest that his relationship with David Baldwin shaped James’ identity. Facing societal prejudice as a black, queer person is a painful experience that shaped Baldwin as a writer. It is helpful to understand how his personal experiences impacted his work and led him to write semi-autobiographical novels such as GTIOTM. Before Baldwin was even fully aware of all life’s burdens and troubles, he had a rough childhood. His perception of love was warped because his family displayed their love for him in manners that were sometimes violent and detrimental to him. While David Baldwin may have seen his behavior towards James doing what was necessary to get him to conform to survive as a Black man in America, I think it probably played a role in traumatizing Baldwin, thus impacting his perceptions on love, forgiveness, and relationships. I think this could be why we see those issues as recurring themes in our class so far. I submit that this parental issue is just as impactful on James Baldwin’s life and writing as the other social issues that are considered major themes in his pieces.

One thought on “Parental Influence”

  1. I 100% agree with this post Cassidy. Gabriel’s actions and thoughts that we are quick to judge, have to come from somewhere. Whether it is the beating of his children, his hatred for white people, or how he uses religion to justify himself, these are all learned habits coming from his parental figure. The actions of parents in general have great impacts on how we view the world and how we interact with it .

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