Character Analysis: Giovanni's Room

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Giovanni’s Room Close Reading

In the classic book Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin, the protagonist, David, constantly must face his insecurities when it comes to sexuality and wanting to be “a man.” A man in David’s mind is a straight, masculine, powerful figure; or, as Ellen describes it, a bull. This quintessential need is rooted in David’s relationship with his father, and nowhere is this more clear then the memory of Ellen and David’s father’s interaction about manhood and wishes for David. On page 16 of the novel David has a recollection of an argument between his father and Ellen, David’s aunt. In this interaction David’s dad states, “All I want for David is that he grow up to be a man.” This one sentence would stick with David for
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David internalized the idea, focusing on one thing his entire life; being a man. This mantra becomes all that David knows, pushing away his sexuality and desires for closeness with others in order to achieve manliness, in the only way he knew how, the way his father sees being a man. The man David strives to impersonate is best described with two quotes, his father stating, “And when I say a man, Ellen, I don’t mean a Sunday school teacher” and Ellen’s retort, “A man is not the same thing as a bull.” These quotes are emblazed in David’s memory, yet he still fails to grasp what Ellen state, instead of making himself his own man and accepting his sexuality David chooses to force himself into his father’s view of a man, a straight, powerful, confident, womanizing, working man. This forced facade controls his life, destroying many relationships including the relationship with his father. David states, shortly after reliving the memory, “I despised my father.” This simple idea exemplifies the power the man had over young David, as well as showing the…show more content…
His father wanted David to be a man, and while David is appalled by the idea he also would strive for the rest of his life to meet his father’s ideals, whether or not David realized it. In the first chapter David states that his father believes they were like buddies and goes on to say, “I think my father sometimes actually believed this. I never did. I did not want to be his buddy, I wanted to be his son. What passed between us as masculine candor exhausted and appalled me.” The expression of need for a father-son relationship is evidence of why the wishes of his father are so central to how David constructed the facade he remains trapped behind. David appears to be appalled by the masculinity his father wishes him to show, yet strives throughout his life to be an example of masculinity, repressing his sexuality as best he could, acting as a womanizer and drinking as if booze was water. These ideals are not David’s idea of paradise but rather a picture of paradise painted by a father who did not understand David and imposed his ideals of masculinity on David, a feeling all can relate to. Many people’s parents impose their own ideals on their children, not realizing that children are easily impressed upon and will internalize any and all lessons taught by their parents, which can lead to a life of prosperity and happiness or, just as easily,
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