Symbolism In Giovanni's Room

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James Baldwin’s, Giovanni’s Room, tells the story of an American man, David, in Paris, and his relationship with a man, Giovanni. There are large overarching themes of repression and isolation throughout the novel which lend a hand to, David’s, own repression of self. It is immediately obvious to the reader what David is repressing; he cannot admit that he is gay. Baldwin uses imagery of water throughout the novel (a glass of water even being used on some covers) to represent David’s relationship with Giovanni. Baldwin further pushes this representation, and the failed relationship of Giovanni and David (because of David’s inability to accept the truth of himself) to highlight the importance of acceptance. We first see water used to describe…show more content…
It is telling that the physical space of Giovanni’s room feels detached from the rest of the world, as David is detatching his sexualtiy from the rest of the world. In a sense, David is hiding his sexuality in Giovanni’s room, which lets the room become repressive. While it could be a safe haven, where David could be free in his homosexuality as “time flowed past indifferently above us, hours and days had no meaning” (75), David let’s the indifference of time and the sea of Giovanni’s room suffocate him. It is interesting that David reiterates Giovanni’s point, that time does not care about how one spends their life; as time is indifferent. However, this has a negative connotation for David, because he is still unable to accept his sexuality. Beneath the sea of Giovanni’s room, David feels as if he is suffocating, rather than living a life free of the constraints of (American) time. For David, it feels that is he and Giovanni are beneath the sea, they can only last so long until one of them…show more content…
David is intent on finding a stable, “normal” relationship with a women, stemming from social pressures. Whenever he feels too vulnerable in his affair with Giovanni, David turns to women (Hella or casual sexual relations) to reestablish a masculine identity that he feels is threatened by Giovanni. Giovanni describes women, again in accordance to water, saying “women are like water. They are tempting like that, and they can be that treacherous, and they seem to be that bottomless...and that shallow” (79), to convince David of the uncertainty and eventual disappointment of women. Giovanni is describing women as everything. They are ever-changing and resistant to this static identity that David is searching for. In describing women as both “bottomless” and “shallow” it becomes clear that there is no certainty in women. David uses women to further repress his sexuality but, Giovanni, is saying that this is impossible to do as women are too much to be as steady as David desires them to be. Giovanni’s argument further calls upon David to accept his sexuality, as women are as uncertain as men, and therefore just as “safe” as a sexual partner for David. Even less so considering they are not the companion he desires. However, David continues to repress his sexuality (acceptance of self) bringing on the tragic demise of the novel, Giovanni’s

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