Notes of A Native Son: The Father and Son Dynamic

Baldwin talks a lot about his relationship with his father, as well as his reaction to his father’s death. One comment that truly stuck with me while reading this was ‘It was only that I had hated him and I wanted to hold on to this hatred… it was not a ruin that I had hated.'(p. 75)

This line from the reading stuck with me because it showed me that Baldwin only had this emotion to hang onto once his father died. Without his father and the hatred pointed toward him, there was no other emotion to feel but pain. The fact that his father dying did nothing but exercise the thoughts of pain and hate in his head was interesting to me, especially once he brought up his aunt sooner after. Baldwin describes his aunt as ‘beautiful’, or at least that is how he considered her in his childhood. Baldwin seems to recall everyone as nice r kind or beautiful, except for his father. Yet, his aunt is reduced to nothing more than a ‘little black monkey’ as she mourns the death of her brother. Baldwin clearly allows the feelings he has for his father to affect the relationships others may have had with his own father.

This reminds me of Go Tell It On a Mountain, since in that story the father and son dynamic was also strained. I believe that it was strained, but not in full form of hatred. We see how important a father figure is and how it can affect an entire upbringing. It can affect the views on religion, being, and violence. I question if violence in the home, through beating can be made into how people view the world. I believe that a spanking is different than actually being abused throughout childhood. I know that this story talks about how beatings can be related to love and furthermore, religion can be associated with being a good person. So, in Notes of a Native Son the hate Baldwin saw was just his realization that love and the Church did not have to be associated with violence.

One thought on “Notes of A Native Son: The Father and Son Dynamic”

  1. Much like you, Baldwin’s description of his relationship with his father has always stuck with me, particularly because of how much of myself I see in it. The quote you selected was particularly relevant, but I think the pain Baldwin expresses also has a lot to do with love. The kind of hatred that he describes, I see as coming from a place of desperate love. It is difficult to love someone that has caused you so much pain, and therefore it is much easier to hate, and keep holding on to that hatred so that you don’t have to feel the complex, and far more messy emotions. This is particularly relevant as the version of love Baldwin was taught emphasized the pain, the beatings, the soul-saving. It’s no wonder Baldwin rewrote his definition of love later on. Still, misperceptions of love are such a powerful and complicated human experience, I wish more writers touched on it as Baldwin does.

Comments are closed.