Power and Oppression

Megan, in her presentation last week, spoke about Foucault and power in Giovanni’s Room. She mentions that “the power that David holds and does employ actually works towards his own oppression. Thus, it is not in spite of his power but because of his power that David experiences a sort of ‘death’ in Giovanni’s Room.” Before this presentation, I was unaware of Foucault’s idea of power not being autocratic or liberating, but being another form of oppression. I saw this in Baldwin’s Going to Meet the Man as well. Jesse’s power is derived from his memory of the castration of a black man, which is an incident that makes him think of himself, a white man, as superior to a black man. This power is bestowed upon Jessie by this incident and through society that believes a white man is superior to a black man. Power really becomes a form of oppression for Jessie, because without thinking about it, he cannot do something as simple as make love to his wife. He is a slave to this power which oppresses him. When a black man in jail is singing to him, disobeying Jessie’s command, Jessie cannot help but beat the man up, to retain his mental superiority. Additionally, this power consumes his life to the extent that he cannot stop thinking about it even when he is trying to fall sleep. It is only after recalling a hate crime against a black man that Jessie can get an erection. Baldwin writes that Jessie “thought of the morning and grabbed her, laughing and crying, crying and laughing, and he whispered, as he stroked her, as he took her, ‘Come on, sugar, I’m going to do you like a nigger, just like a nigger, come on, sugar, and love me just like you’d love a nigger.’” (Baldwin 348) Jessie is oppressed by his power over black people because it consumes his life, in the day and in the night.