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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

14. Becoming Visible

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
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Activities: Author Activities

James Baldwin - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: Baldwin's story is full of sound, with juxtapositions of moaning, singing, and screaming, along with passages pointing out silence. Describe how sound is used in "Going to Meet the Man" to intensify the action and memories and to provide an understanding of Jesse's mental state.

  2. Comprehension: Sexuality, violence, guilt, and hatred are intertwined in this story. What connections do you see among them in Jesse's mind? Why does the story end in the way it does and what is ironic about that ending?

  3. Comprehension: What is ironic about Jesse's relationship with his young friend, Otis? Do you think Jesse's life could have been different if he had more liberal parents, even growing up in the South?

  4. Context: Was publishing "Going to Meet the Man" in the midst of the civil rights struggle of the 1960s an act of special significance? What aspects of the story help you construct your answer?

  5. Context: Do you believe that Baldwin excuses Jesse and his actions in any way because of the culture Jesse was brought up in? Why or why not?

  6. Exploration: More than thirty years after the first publication of "Going to Meet the Man," American writers and film directors are often faulted for imagining the psychological life of someone of the other gender or from a different race or culture. How does Baldwin succeed or fail in his representation of Jesse, a white deputy sheriff in a small southern town?

  7. Exploration: Compare the racism in "Going to Meet the Man" with the racism encountered in a novel (or movie) like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. What are the differences and similarities?

  8. Exploration: In Gender Trouble (1990), feminist theorist Judith Butler argues that gender is not constant but rather is fluid and changes with a given context. In this sense, one "performs" one's gender. Test Butler's theory using Baldwin's characters. Does Jesse's gender depend on the circumstances in which he finds himself?

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