Revolving Doors

Throughout the novel, I have been interested in the presence of women, or lack thereof. In “The Male Prison,” Baldwin discusses Gide’s use of a woman named Madeleine and her relationship with a homosexual man. In some ways, from Baldwin’s writing on Gide’s work, I see a similarity to David and Hella’s relationship in the novel. Baldwin writes, “Madeleine kept open for him a kind of door of hope, of possibility, the possibility of entering into communion with another sex. This door, which is the door to life and air and freedom from the tyranny of one’s own personality, must be kept open…” (Baldwin 235). He then goes on to say that those who feel that their door is going to close, or already has, need these relationships. 

This reflects the beginning of part two in Giovanni’s Room, when David is preparing for the return of Hella, and how his talk with Giovanni about it, made him question his life. Giovanni tries to understand David’s relationship with Hella and I think David is trying to understand it, as well. In some ways, David is afraid of the life he may live, or how different his world would be if he cut ties with Hella, and actually lived the life he wants to. Hella is holding his door open to an easier life; she is his tie to what he believes to be masculinity, and the normal life as the man that his Father wants him to be. We then see David go through the tyranny of his own personality and life in Chapter Two of Part Two, he says “I was in a terrible confusion. Sometimes I thought, but this is your life. Stop fighting it. Stop fighting,” (Baldwin 162, E-Book). This is where I find confusion with Baldwin’s two writings. I think we can see that David having a relationship with Hella would make his life easier, but it is not the life that he wants to or needs to live. I think Baldwin is saying that, yes, women and men may need each other to live, in the way that it would give them freedom to an easier life. However, the societal pressures often lead them to lives of misery, so in that sense, there is no freedom?

2 thoughts on “Revolving Doors”

  1. Hey Faith!
    I totally agree that Hella represents an “easy way out” for David. Most of her virtue lies in the fact that she is simply not a man. In fact, something I found extremely frustrating was Hella’s internalized misogyny: she believes true womanhood is only achievable through marriage to a man and seems to hold that women are meant to be subservient, domestic creatures. I guess it only just hit me that this is exactly what David finds so attractive about her: she represents the traditional (read: toxic) ideas of masculinity and femininity to which David so desperately wants to conform.

  2. Hi Faith,
    I find it interesting that you chose the quote “[s]ometimes I thought, but this is your life. Stop fighting it. Stop fighting” to describe David’s relationship with Hella. I think this is an accurate description of most people that have anything in their lives which they are unhappy with. At some point, you just want to give up and “stop fighting” as life takes its course. Before you pointed this quote out, I never realized how it direly it could be applied. I also think that Baldwin is trying to point out the easier life of misery that men and women may live. Yet, how can a life of misery every be easier than the possibility of one without it?

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