January 17, 2021

From Gerald R. Lucas
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I started Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain today. The protagonist reminds me a bit of the author, so we might have a bit of autobiography in this Bildungsroman. The dominant theme, expressed in the first paragraph, is about society’s influence on one’s development, usually in negative ways. Baldwin illustrates with John’s family, especially his abusive father, his broken mother, and his wayward brother Roy. The novel begins on John Grimes’ fourteenth birthday to a sense of “menace in the air around him.” No one remembers that it’s his birthday, and this sets the tenor for his decision that “He would have another life” in spite of the life his community had chosen for him. I think “Grimes” is also a significant symbol, too, as the family is surrounded by filth, and they seem somehow dirty. This could be an observation of the macro world’s racist views of Harlem blacks in the 1930s.

I also watched News of the World this evening: a touching film with some similarities to True Grit. Direction and performances were excellent, and the major theme of the difficulties of integration, especially in post-Civil War Texas, were apparent and germane.