June 2, 2022
Finished Giovanni’s Room
Whereas the ending of Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), Baldwin’s first novel, was optimistic in that John’s revelation seems to have provided the impetus for his escape or rebirth, Giovanni’s Room is a much more sober and despairing read. David is left at the end having nowhere to go but up. Maybe this is similar to John in a way, but the tone of the ending here does not suggest that David will be OK anytime soon. He seems intent to go back to Paris, but there’s nothing there for him anymore, as Giovanni has likely already been executed, and it’s his execution that seems to be at least partially the fault of David’s inability to love, or more accurately, his inability to be honest about his love.
One of the novel’s dominant motifs is the mirror that frames the novel. The beginning has David looking at his reflection in the mirror, foreshadowing, I thought, his readiness to come to terms with his true self. Yet, at the end, David stand naked before the a large mirror that he is “terribly aware of.” He imagines he can see Giovanni being led to his execution in the mirror, suggesting that this is perhaps a more honest reflection of David’s own culpability in Giovanni’s fate. Earlier in the novel, as David leaves Giovanni’s room for the final time, Giovanni accuses David of loving a pure image of himself that he sees in the mirror:
|“||You have never loved anyone, and I am sure you never will! You love your purity, you love your mirror—you are just like a little virgin, you walk around with your hands in front of you as though you had some precious metal, gold, silver, rubies, maybe diamonds down there between your legs! You will never give it to anybody, you will never let anybody touch it—man or woman. You want to be clean.||”|
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