Going To Meet The Man Summary
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Iconic American author, James Baldwin, wrote the short story “Going to Meet the Man” in 1965. The story relates a man’s violent thoughts during an episode of police brutality and the lynching of a black man. Its themes include racism, sexual violence, and African-American and black identity. The short story opens as a woman, Grace, and her husband, Jesse, get ready for sleep. Jesse is tired; his wife says he works too much; he says he doesn’t have much of a choice. He is 42 and has never had trouble sleeping before, but now, he worries about what the black people in town may do in response to a violent attack he recently participated in inside the town’s jail. His worries are keeping him up past 2AM. He considers himself a religious man, though he’s really a corrupted police officer who uses his position to coerce black women into providing sexual services. He blames black people for the poverty they endure and often uses the n-word with great malice and spite. It’s revealed that he is the sheriff of a small, southern town. He is patronizing toward black children, and as he lies in bed, he wonders if he should have poisoned their candy before they could grow up. He enjoys cheating black people out of money and scaring them; doing so reinforces his sense of himself as a superior being.
Jesse starts telling a half-asleep Grace about the incident that is keeping him awake. Another police officer, Big Jim C., caused a scene after a group of black men stood somewhere they weren’t supposed to, in front of a court house. They were, in his opinion, blocking traffic. They were also singing in public. Big Jim C and a few other police officers beat the “ring leader” and a couple of the other men. They threw them in a wagon to bring them to the local jail. In the jail, Big Jim C beats one of the young men, screaming that he should make the others stop singing around the court house and repeatedly kicking him in the testicles. Big Jim C. and Jesse believe they are doing their sworn duty: protecting white people from black “animals.” The boy says that the black people won’t stop singing until all of the white people go crazy; he spits blood on the floor and then passes out. Jesse can’t believe the effrontery of this young black man. He now views the singing as a deliberate attempt to sing, “white folks into hell.”
Jesse considers how jokes at the expense of black people have decreased in recent years; he longs for the days when discrimination was celebrated. He wonders how a war between the whites and the blacks would turn out. He dislikes the fact that the blacks, across the town, seem to know what happens in one part of the town, so there’s no way to ambush them. Also, unlike cities in the north, where minorities tended to live in clusters, there isn’t a simple solution to getting rid of black people in his town—they’re too spread out. If white people did attack black people, Jesse knows that people in the north would be outraged and come down to protest in the south; he doesn’t want that headache.
Jesse looks back into his boyhood. One day, his father was driving he and his mother somewhere. They pass a group of black people singing a spiritual hymn. They are singing because they know a black man (who, it is implied, is innocent) is about to be lynched. Jesse is eight years old and thinks about his black friend Otis. He is starting to feel ashamed for associating with him. His father tells him to tell Otis that, when he grows up, he isn’t to cause any trouble for white people like this other black man. Jesse’s father was also the sheriff of the town. He observes as more and more people he knows flock to the lynching. He finds it curious that he there are no black people there.
The white people bring picnic baskets, as if they’re attending a Fourth of July celebration. His father jokes that his wife is so good looking that the black man they’re going to lynch will say his crime wasn’t worth committing because it didn’t involve Jesse’s mother. Jesse takes pride in himself; his father believes he is strong enough and old enough to witness such a gruesome act, which the town calls justice. The lynching is horrifying: the white people string the black man up on a tree from his arms; they set a fire beneath him and repeatedly lower him into the fire before raising him again. Then, they cut off the man’s genitals, before dowsing him with kerosene. At the finale of the lynching, the crowd rushes toward the man, to mutilate him further. The lynching is a strangely powerful bonding moment for the community. Jesse says he’s never seen his mother look so beautiful; the men who orchestrate the lynching appear to be heroes; his father seems very peaceful and he says this is a picnic the two of them will never forget.
As the short story ends, it’s morning, and Jesse whispers to his wife that he’s going to have rough sex with her, as if he were a black man. They have sex, and Jesse hears a rooster crow, a dog bark, “and the sound of tires on the gravel road,” hinting that someone from the black community is finally coming for him.
Essay about “Going to Meet the Man”; the Black Man Inside the Redneck
646 WordsApr 20th, 20123 Pages
In “Going to Meet the Man” by James Baldwin the reader opens up with a scene that is considered one of the most horrific torture and murder scenes in history; or of the 1940’s. The story is so graphic that it takes you away from the main idea of racism, hatred and murder. Nevertheless, the theme of the story is a transformation of a young child into a stereotypical Black Southern-American hating bigot. Through dramatic detail Baldwin explains the mindset of a white southern police officer and how he came to hate Black-Americans. This was representative of the racial, violent black South because this exemplified what happens to most white-Americans and how they are brained washed unknowingly to hate anyone that does not resemble the same…show more content…
It is obvious from the story and the historical period in which the story takes place that Jesse had grown up in an extremely racist society and experienced prejudice on a daily basis from the attitude that his father expresses toward the black race. Here, Baldwin shows how any person in any situation can become the victim of twisted family values and societal expectations. Baldwin combines attacks on black people during the civil rights era and the period of history to this story to allow the reader to understand what Jesse feels on the day his innocence and perception of race was no more. “The black body was on the ground, the head was caved in, one eye was torn out one ear was hanging. But one had to look carefully to realize this, for it was, now, merely, a black charred object on the black, charred ground.”
Boy, Objects, things; replaceable things. Never first names, last names, Mr or Sir in between names just things. Never remembered other than a picture taken for a personal photo album hanging from a noose. The laughs, the screams, the smell and the fires is all that remain for nostalgic thinking. For blacks in the 1940’s its not forgotten and rarely talked about and for the whites it is what drives the power to hate and continue the