Though seemingly completely different characters, Baldwin connects Jesse from Going to Meet The Man with David from Giovani’s Room with precision. Both protagonists fall exceedingly short of Baldwin’s goals in the same way – the inability to love.
The Latin-derived name Grace means “Gift from God”. This element is important as it connects to Baldwin’s biblical intent. It also exacerbates Jesse’s inability to love. Jesse, consumed by his hatred of Black people, cannot love his wife emotionally or physically. In fact, his hatred for African Americans does not allow him to actually love himself or his own people. He is jailed by his hatred of Black people and it manifests in sick ways. Not only does the abuse and mutilation of Black people bring him joy, it defines who he is. His hatred was taught to him by his father and the society at large. Family gatherings and community events center around the lynchings of Black men. The hate is so ingrained in him that he cannot actually love. His hate consumes even his most intimate acts. He can only have relations with his wife when he taps into hate thoughts—memories of lynchings and the abuse of Black people. Jesse’s fixation on Black male genitalia can be interpreted in multiple ways. It could be argued that it signals his hidden homo erotic nature. It could be viewed as pure fascination with an opposite. It could be viewed as study of the power dynamic that Jesse seeks to make up for his short comings. His desire for power can be found in his jealousy of his “enemy’s” maleness. It speaks directly to his insecurities.
In Giovanni’s Room, David—like Jesse— has a relationship with a woman where he attempts to tap into the perceived “heterosexual” power. There is a status that derives from David’s ability to revert to his normative relationship whenever he pleases. This allows him the ability to have loveless encounters with Joey and eventually Giovanni. He holds the power in all relationships with gay men because he can simply fade and downgrade the relationship, thus never having to offer his love, affection, vulnerability. However, Baldwin argues that both characters are fatally trapped – Jesse’s all-consuming hatred and David’s lack of emotional commitment—both disabling them from love. Jesse can never truly develop a relationship with God because he lacks the most important key to establishing that relationship. Hate consumes him so much that there is no room for love. David tries to be perceived as being more powerful in his homosexual relationships because he can always run to the other side. In truth, Baldwin demonstrates he’s not. Giovanni holds the power as he expresses his love to David without fear of the outside world. Giovanni is able to remember the time when he was in the Garden of Eden when he had a normative relationship and was happy, and he is able to forget that Garden of Eden as he dives fully into a homosexual relationship where he looks to love as well. He is a true hero, according to Baldwin. Love is priority number one for Baldwin, so one’s ability to be “manly” should be demonstrated in one’s ability to love, not who they love.