The ‘Closet’ and Shame

While reading part 1 of Giovanni’s room, I couldn’t help but focus on the shame that is surrounding the story. Right from the start of the book, we read about David and the first man he had ever been with, Joey. The relationship was short-lived and again, filled with shame. On page 9, it states ‘ I could have cried, cried for shame and terror, cried for not understanding how this could have happened to me.’ I am currently taking a class called ‘Perspective on Gender’, in which we constantly talk about shame. We recently watched a movie about the AIDs epidemic and how there was so much shame surrounding the diagnosis. Obviously, this is not necessarily the exact same way that Baldwin is attempting to express the shame of homosexuality. For a long time, HIV/AIDS was viewed as the ‘gay’ diseases and was rarely talked about through media since people just thought that only one specific group of people would die. It was not until activist began to speak up, began to come together as one that the shame began to lift and in its place was an understanding. I believe that this is why it is so important for Baldwin to write about his shame.

Baldwin became a light in a dark tunnel for so many. He writes about how the shame can destroy relationships and people on the inside. The character of David becomes even more of an outcast to himself, which causes a rift to grow even bigger between him and his father. So much so that acting out becomes an outlet for all of David’s pent up emotions. The shame continues into Davids adult life since those feeling from childhood are never addressed. We see it in David’s time i the army, as well as with Giovanni. I believe that David asks Hella to marry him because of his shame. He could never be with a man before he first understand the clarity of who he is. Near the end of part 1, on page 64, Baldwin write ‘With everything in me screaming No! yet the sum of me sighed. Yes.‘ Yet, we all know even with that line, Bladwin’s shame is still there in his mind, body, and soul even when wanting it.