Racism In James Baldwin's If Beale Street Could Talk

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If Beale Street Could Talk: Emasculation by Racism

In the novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, James Baldwin uses the motif of emasculation, to show the sense of powerlessness, and the suffering, caused by racism.

The wooden sculpture Fonny makes is a symbol of his own helplessness and the misery he feels in the world. Fonny pours great passion into his carvings and this endless drive and determination is what initially gets him into trouble when he steals materials from a nearby school. The sculpture Fonny made and gave to his mother, was one of his first creations and it ceremoniously hung on a table in the living room of their house. It was described as “not very [tall], it’s done in black wood.”, this is a mirror image of Fonny who is depicted as an average sized, young black male. The narrator describes the statue as “a naked man with one hand on his forehead and the other half
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The hand rested on the forehead of the statue resembles the pain that Fonny endures throughout the story, with his family, education system, and the justice system. The pain caused by the justice system emasculates him because Fonny is unable to fight for his justice, proving to him that there is nothing that he can do to fight for his rights or his innocence. This is resembled in the wooden sculpture by the hand covering the sculpture’s sex, what is generalized as what makes someone a man. The feet of the wooden man are similar to Fonny’s feeling toward the education system. Fonny attended a vocational school where he said “they teach kids to make all kinds of shitty, really useless things”, he followed up by saying how the people running these schools are trying to make sure that these black students in the inner city do not become smart. His passion to learn is keeping
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