Societal Isolation

Baldwin published Giovanni’s Roomin 1956. However, the society that I grew up in seems to have barely progressed since then. A lot of what Baldwin mentions in Giovanni’s Room, I feel, is still valid for the Indian society today. I will not really touch upon American society in this blog post, since I feel that I have a very narrow and surface level view of it which stems from merely watching or reading the news or living in the “Notre Dame bubble.” The men in Guillaume’s Bar are not very fond of David. Baldwin writes that the men at the bar “could not, somehow, speak to us as they spoke to one another, and they resented the strain we imposed on them of speaking in any other way. And it made them furious that the dead center of their lives was, in this instance, none of their business.” (Baldwin 119) Sadly, this reminds me of the country I grew up in, and the people I grew up around. A famous comedian once described India as the country of the white people of the brown people. In South-East Asia, India is touted to be the most developed and progressive country in general. It was among the first to decriminalize gay couples and people of the same gender having sex (yes, there was an old law against it which the British had created.) However, the country I grew up in now seems very homophobic to me. Just like the people at the bar in Giovanni’s Room, my teachers shamed a boy in my class. They told him that he was “too effeminate” and my family members made sure to pass a demeaning comment towards anyone on the TV that remotely fit the gay stereotype. The attitude of the people at the Bar in Baldwin’s novel highlights how the Indian society is still stuck where Paris was in 1956. People are still uncomfortable around same sex couples and make the couples feel like they are different in a negative way as they do not conform. Same sex couples in India, are sadly made to feel like they are separate and the “other” part of society which must not be spoken about positively. This makes Giovanni’s Room still relevant towards the Indian society. However, the question is when will such a novel become irrelevant to current times?

One thought on “Societal Isolation”

  1. Hey Ahana! It is so infuriating to think about how homophobia still exists pretty much everywhere in the world today. Although I don’t know much about how homosexuality is regarded by people in India other than what you wrote about, we see this kind of casual homophobia that you described (as well as plenty of direct and blatantly offensive homophobia) in the US extremely often. I might be naive, but I would have hoped that with all the strides the world has made in becoming more aware and accepting of people of different identities, we would no longer have to deal with this kind of casual discrimination. This is why it’s so important, I think, that we continue to read stories like this and try to do better. I don’t know if this novel will ever become irrelevant, but we can definitely work to make it so.

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