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Showing posts from May, 2009

Going to Meet the Man: The Lynching of James Baldwin

On one hand, James Baldwin 's short story "Going to Meet the Man" seems fairly straight forward. A deputy sheriff in the changing south remembers his family taking him to the lynching of a black man with the same air of excitement someone might experience on a family picnic. The details are both gruesome and disturbing, but there doesn't seem to be any hidden message, at least at first glance. However, by reading a little deeper possibilities open and Baldwin's tale of dying Old South sensibilities takes on another layer of meaning. While "Going to Meet the Man" clearly repeats themes speckled throughout the bulk of Baldwin's writing output, one small detail of the narrative could hint at a more obscure message, a three-cushion shot such as Hemingway described. Before the black man is brutally disfigured we are given his description through the eyes of the story's main character, Jesse, as a child: He saw the forehead, flat and high, with a kind