A Research Of The Fire Next Time By James Baldwin

June 23, 2022 by Essay Writer

The book I have read is “The Fire Next Time”, narrated and written by James Baldwin. The book includes two essays that were written in the 1960s during a time of segregation between White and Black Americans. The first essay is a letter to Baldwin’s nephew, where he compares his nephew to the men in their family including Baldwin’s brother and father. Baldwin concludes that racial separatism and violence are not solutions for achieving power. Baldwin states and believes that black people will only be able to achieve lasting power in America if they learn and accept white people to the fullest instead of blaming them for their insecurities and lack of knowledge. These essays examine issues of racial inequality in America, religion, and the limitations of narrow-minded thinking. Both essays address the next generation of black people and educate white people about the experience of being a black man in America in the 1960s, this being during the signing Emancipation Proclamation. Starting with the first essay, “My Dungeon Shook”. This was a short introductory paragraph to introduce the characters, plot and setting. This essay begins by James Baldwin introducing himself and his nephew in which he is writing to. This short letter sets the stage for the entire book, this paragraph is mandatory for a ready to read and analyze. In this short chapter, Baldwin urges his nephew to seek lasting change for black people in America rather than the vengeance they were forced upon each other. Baldwin conveys that the segregation can’t discontinue unless you accept the other side for what they are instead of holding a prejudice thought to your own self. Baldwin begins this letter by describing where he(himself) grew up and where his nephew James is growing up. He states the context of how growing up in Harlem is nowhere near exaggerated no matter what the white people think or say. The area in which James Baldwin and his nephew James grew up in, is set to fail you, to prove the diminishing stereotypical facts of the blacks. White people during this era were seen to control and have superiority amongst the race of blacks, this being during the time of the signing of the Proclamation of Emancipation. Baldwin ends the chapter of “My Dungeon Shook” by addressing his thoughts to his nephew James by stating that if he wishes to have real change between the race of black and white, his nephew will have to embrace the hate and discrimination he has to face, and instead of relitating to the whites, Baldwin conveys the idea that his nephew has to realize they are the victims of themselves, the white people have to grow up eventually and understand all men are created equal despite where you locate or what your skin color appears to be. 

Second is the essay “Down at the Cross, Letter from a Region in my mind”, Baldwin begins this new essay, he begins the essay by referring to an old event in his own Instead of summarizing his family history as he did in his letter to James, he begins the essay by referring to an old event in his own life. He introduces the setting as the summer that he turned 14 years old, during the time he experienced a religious outburst in the streets of Harlem. Baldwin defines the outburst consisting of his discovery of the common Christian ideas: God, saints and angels, and hell. Because America was a christian country at the time and still is, he was drawn to a Christian interpretation of God, and in this era, this seemed to him like the only possible route to life. Baldwin also explains that he turned toward religion in the first place because, at this age, he first developed a sense of fear. This fear was alerted from his growing awareness of the criminals and prostitutes he saw in his neighborhood. In his immediate environment, most of his friends began to drink, smoke, and become sexually active. All of these influences and obstacles awoke the young teenage Baldwin. 

The character I have chosen is the narrator and author himself; James Baldwin. Baldwin, who is an African-American who was born into poverty in Harlem in 1924. Baldwin was devoted to equality, love, and racial integration. The Fire Next Time draws on Baldwin’s immediate experiences, often expressing his closest relationships as a way of further exploring his ideas about American identity. He was very blunt and straightforward in these essays written to his nephew James. Biographical information contained in the work portrays him as having grown up in Harlem, in the middle of that community’s economic, spiritual and political poverty. James had experienced hardship throughout his life leading to the royal perspective in which is so valuable to generations below us. Baldwin’s character in this book is very brave and dedicated. Baldwin has the ability to break down a situation and make you think onto another contienent, he reveals that racial segregation isn’t just the division of black and whites, there is more to it than that. 

Baldwin represents the symbol of equality, and the way I addressed this symbol was by having 2 hands shaking each other(one dark colored) and one white on a poster paper. At the time of the emancipation proclamation, racism was obvious towards African Americans, James Baldwin wanted the opposite, although that was out of his control, he expresses in this story how his nephew should deal with racism. James didn’t blame the whites, he said “They are trapped in a history which they do not understand”. His dedication was to get rid of racism all along. He broke down many situations in which tore people apart in which were his color in this era. An example would be Baldwin attending church, although this kept Baldwin from drugs and other influences in the streets of Harlem, reflecting Baldwin’s gift for holding two seemingly-contradictory ideas in his mind at once, the church in The Fire Next Time simultaneously represents hope and community. Baldwin, whose abusive father was a minister, grew up with religion at the center of his family life. A focus on spirituality over can encourage blacks to become complacent with their lives, rather than looking for improvement. Second, the Christian church’s emphasis on spreading the sermons has centuries of knowledge. Related to this, Baldwin identifies in theology, both in the theology of the black nationalist religious group in the Nation of Islam; thinking that is used to justify many social problems, including racism and Christanity. Although the church seems as an escape plan from the ghetto streets of Harlem, the church made Baldwin in a way feel discriminated, the sermons and ceremonies were also talking about people who think alike, look alike, and hearing this, Baldwin felt discriminated as a black being in that environment, he began to question the vanity and existence of Christ, life, and God. Church brought Baldwin to the conclusion that a true life cannot be lived blindly to a corresponding single organized religion, I believe the same thought.

James had many character traits, he is and was devoted to equality, dedicated, honest, has self-knowledge, well- minded, and is an overthinker. James likes to click to the reality of life, the thoughts in which we don’t address on a daily basis, for example, he states “It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep; they suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be. ”

The theme I have chosen is ‘Forgiveness’, not just forgiveness but love. I believe strongly, the book is trying to teach us the importance and the value of love and forgiveness and how far it can take us in life. Baldwin continuously refers to the importance of love and forgiveness. He first counsels his nephew to recognize that he is a product of his parents’ love. His parents chose to love him devotedly, even though they were fearful for his future due to the fact he was born as a black boy in America during the Emancipation Proclamation. Baldwin argues that because of his parents’ love, James has a duty to value his own life and persevere in the face of hardship. Baldwin tries to set his nephew’s mind that hardship is apart of life, some will experience more than others, Baldwin gave me the idea that the more hardship you contain, the greater and glorious the outcome. Baldwin also advocates for a loving and forgiving approach to white people. He does not believe that vengeance or bitterness can resolve the racial issues America faces. Instead, he believes that these issues can only be resolved if black people approach their white countrymen with love, extend them forgiveness for their past actions, and attempt to teach them to recognize the ways in which they have exploited and misunderstood. He claims that white people can only be brought around to a more accurate picture of reality if they are guided with love. Baldwin repeatedly speaks the fact that without change of both black and white humanity, there will never be progress. 

The 1st character trait I discovered is that James supports equality. 

His motivation is to abolish racism and teach his nephew how to deal because he doesn’t want his nephew to become like his own father. James states “Colour is not a human or a personal reality; it is a political reality. ” He states this as a way he feels about racism. He also addresses what his nephew has to sacrifice in order to remain in the world. 

“The really terrible thing, old buddy, is that you must accept them. “ He states that it is not the whites fault that they are trapped into a history in which they don’t understand. He doesn’t blame a specific race for acting the way they did. He addressed they do not know any better. Throughout the book, it is evident that James Baldwin supports and was devoted to equality, with expressing and addressing the experiences he had to overcome as a young child to a grown man, showed us James Baldwin wish nothing but equality for our nation. Baldwin’s point was that if both whites and blacks don’t put their anger aside and become more understanding, a “fire” is sure to come. 

The second character trait I have discovered is Baldwin being strong. 

Breaking bad news and or truth to family can be a very hard thing to do. James Baldwin had no problem addressing the bold fact to his nephew – “You may be like your grandfather in this, I don’t know, but certainly both you and your father him very much physically. Well, he is dead, he never saw you, and he had a terrible life; he was defeated long before he dies because, at the bottom of his heart, he really believed what white people said about him. ” This proves he is very blunt and very direct, but more so strong, he is talking about his brother, not any stranger. He tells his nephew very directly about the sad brief life his father had without hesitation, this piece of text was only on the 2nd page of the book. James had to touch on very tough topics through the duration of this book. It takes a strong, well minded, and directed man to speak these statements into the existence of a 14 year old boy. Regardless of Baldwin having the audacity to tell his nephew these facts, Baldwin had to overcome obstacles an average kid can never imagine. Repeatedly in “The Fire Next Time” Baldwin fought and stood up for himself despite being knocked down by the ‘superior’ over and over. He became apart of a civil rights movement which consisted of some of the biggest obstacles in Baldwin’s life, being counted out in politics, in daily activities, he was looked over, laughed at, but he remained collected and is now one of, if not the most influential writers in history. Pain is a recurring piece in this text, which deals with the issues of African Americans in the 1960s, because so many African Americans had experienced great hardships that continued to haunt them throughout their lives and still do till this date. 

The third character trait that I think is very important that Baldwin contains is his morals. His morals, values and the independence of himself throughout the story. As Baldwin grew up in the streets of Harlem, he had the choice to become involved in gangs, drugs, and other bad affiliations, but he stayed away from that. Baldwin began to see that the boys around him and the ongoing conflicts they were involved in, would never surpass his own father’s expectations and boundaries because of the values that Balwin’s stepfather contained, to stay away from any bad influences that will bring you down. This being one way Baldwin was in fact independent and morally valued. His own father tried to convince him to quit school and start working in the family business, but Baldwin refused, a gesture that his belief in education was as strong as ever. Using explicit evidence from the book, it is evident, Baldwin had to do many things on his own, but never crossed his father’s boundaries or values. Baldwin had little to no support growing up in Harlem not having a true father figure, although his stepdad, whom was a priest, the choice he made to steer away from street activity proves his loyalty to his morals and roots, leading him to church instead of the streets, changing his life forever. 


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