The Fire Next Time Essay, Research Paper
James Baldwin’s book The fire Next Time opens up an entirely new world to most readers. It opens the reader to the harsh world of a black boy growing into a man in the poor city slums and all of the issues that a black man has to face. This book does more for the reader than any article published about the black’s living in the poor cities in terms of exposure for the reader. The reason why it has this ability is how James Baldwin wrote it. He was able to express all of himself in the essay form with a storytelling technique. Together these two techniques combine to form a collection of essays on what blackness means in America. What makes this form of writing nice for the reader is that by combining many different essays you are able to learn about many different areas of a black man’s life.
In his collection of essays there is a light shined on the relationship between blacks and whites. Baldwin throughout the book discusses the idea that to be successful in the world that we live you have to live in a white world. This creates a problem because then you have blacks who want to be successful but the whites will not except them. Baldwin deconstructs the myths that surround blackness in America and sets out as a possibility that blacks must learn to accept whites but whites don’t have to do the same. Even though he has these thoughts he is not anti white. He understands that one day in this world whites and blacks will have to come together and live as one in order to be successful as a whole. A part of the book that he states this goes, “In short we, the black and white deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation-if we are really, that is, to achieve our identity, our maturity, as men and women”. This is a very important part of the book because it shows the reader that the author even though he has been suppressed by whites understands that one day we have to live in unity.
What does being black mean? According to Baldwin, being black is unchangeable. It is a burden for a young person to carry. Being black means that one is intended for a particular life, a life with several disappointing outcomes. Part of his book portrays this idea perfectly. “You were born where you were born and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason.” This shows that Baldwin believes that being black means that you are stuck in one type of life with no way out. This way of life is a brutal one as well. Baldwin brings up many examples of this in the different essays that you read. One line he writes hits you in the chest and makes you step back from the book and think for a second. “You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being”. For a man to write this about his race makes you really understand what he is feeling and the power that he feels it with. Baldwin describes his own life growing up in Harlem. “The wages of sin were visible everywhere, in every wine stained and urine-splashed hallway, in every clanging ambulance bell, in every scar on the faces of the pimps and their whores, in every helpless little newborn baby being brought into danger?” This is something that you can not be exposed to in any other type of writing besides Baldwin’s for the mere fact that his writing is in the form of storytelling and he has the ability to paint a clear picture with this story telling. And you are truly able to see the life that one is exposed to in the slums of Harlem.
An issue that the author brings up in the book is the work that a black man can do. He discusses how their options are limited to the lower class for the mere fact that they are black. You learn that his father was a preacher, and that James Baldwin himself is a preacher. In one of the essays he explains how a young black man has to find a “gimmick” to get into for work. Something that he can do well that will help him make it in a white world. He mentions many lower class jobs like Prize fighting since these are the only ones open to blacks. James states the reason why he moved toward religion is that it gave him a sense of home, and a place to express himself. But on the contrary religion gave him no peace. After reading about a black man’s options for work you learn how this is just another huge mountain that they have to climb in their lives because of the fact that they are black.
The Fire Next Time is a book that teaches one about the hidden world that no one wants to learn about- the poor slums of the city. Baldwin teaches the reader about it by creating a picture of what he had to go through just because he was black. Some authors may have held back in some of the teaching by not being as crude in their description but Baldwin did not. At points I wish that he wasn’t so graphic in his descriptions but looking back on the book as a whole it was a much better book then if he had left things out. After getting through this book you really understand what the black man had to go through to just survive in this world.