Allusions In Giovanni's Room

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In Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin uses the motif of biblical imagery to great affect throughout the story. There are allusions to the garden of Eden in David’s discussion with Jacques (page 25), the symbol of the crucifix in Guillame’s bar (page 39), David’s reference to Judas and the Savior (page 111), and a mention of the walled city of Jericho (page 123). Perhaps most poignant are the names David and Giovanni, harkening back to the books of Samuel, and offering a more hopeful interpretation of Giovanni’s demise. These allusions offer a strong cultural counter point to the presence of homosexuality in Giovanni’s Room and challenge the societal narrative David is surrounded by.
Baldwin effectively mixes the taboo of something considered a sexual perversion in David’s world with the sanctity of the Bible. This juxtaposition is show most clearly in David’s encounter with a man in drag at Guillame’s bar. This person is described in gruesome terms: “It looked like a mummy or a zombie…something walking after it had been put to death…The shirt, open coquettishly to the navel, revealed a hairless chest and a silver crucifix…” (39). David is absolutely revolted by this man, referring to him as “it”. His revulsion comes largely from the social expectations of masculinity,
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Looking to the books of Samuel, Giovanni can be seen as Jonathan (Giovanni being the Italian version of John) and David, of course, as David. While most Christians would look to David and Jonathan’s relationship as a close friendship, some interpretations do find a sexual connotation in their love. In David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan he states, “Your love for me was wonderful, more wonderful than that of women” (NIV, 2 Samuel 1.26). Baldwin’s use of these names was intentional, and if we think of David and Giovanni as an allegory for David and Jonathan there are some interesting conclusions to be
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