Essay about Private and Public Notes of a Native Son

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The Private and Public Notes of a Native Son

The middle of the twentieth century saw the height of the civil rights struggle of African Americans. Amid this tumultuous era rose up a generation of prominent African American writers, and among them was James Baldwin. In “Notes of a Native Son,” an essay that he wrote more than a decade after his father died, Baldwin recalls and reflects on his troubled interaction with his father, a man whom he has hated all his life. His vivid narration of his father and his personal encounters around the time his father died reveals the evolution of his view on the racial issues in America. Baldwin extensively draws on his past experience as an embodiment of the public experience shared by
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Indeed, Baldwin’s and his siblings’ disgust for their father was so large that even the discovery of his psychological illness – paranoia – was not enough for them to forgive him. Baldwin spends the first quarter of the essay for narration to aptly create a vivid image of his father as his domestic oppressor. His early life experience adds to his credentials as a victim of oppression, giving him more authority when he speaks for the oppressed in later context.

To further establish himself as a credible teller of oppression, Baldwin recounts his own experience working in New Jersey. Away from the umbrella of his father, he was shocked to see in the real world the social segregation and the racial discrimination against his color, his blackness, which Baldwin regards as beauty. His instinctive reaction was rebellion. He kept going to places where African Americans were not served until he earned for himself “the enmity…of all my superiors and nearly all his co-workers” (69). He gained a bad reputation and was fired three times, with no hope of getting into work again. Here, Baldwin weaves his narrative and argument by using himself as a specific example of a typical African American workman in those years. He makes plain his anger at the social injustice done not only to him and also to other African Americans. He then induces that his anger is not exclusive and

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