Masculinity In Giovanni's Room

1483 Words 6 Pages
Despite the novel’s richly explored Parisian setting and European characters, Giovanni’s Room is, punctuated with deeply American attitudes and issues. By choosing an American for the protagonist and narrator, David, James Baldwin crafts a novel that is as much about the difficult relationship between Europe and the USA as it is about the difficult relationship between David and Giovanni. Through analysis of the biased, first-person narration of the novel, as well as the dynamics between characters of French, Italian, Belgian and American ancestry, we can establish and support the argument that Giovanni’s Room is a novel that is heavily invested in the question of whether America’s relationship with Europe in the mid-20th Century is too splintered …show more content…
When, following the death of his mother, David’s father finds love with another woman, Ellen finds this disgraceful, warning him that he is throwing away “all your manhood and self-respect, too” by seeing her. Clearly, Ellen finds it abominable to have multiple partners, and therefore David grows up with the opinion that the very American and Christian view on sex and marriage- one sexual partner who one will marry and with whom one will create a family- is the ultimate sign of a successful man. It is a very telling sign of Baldwin’s view of American homosexuals in the 1950s as being somewhat removed from the reality of their situation, that one of the earlier scenes that David describes in the novel is a group of flamboyant gay men, using language that suggests both confusion and disgust, despite himself entering into a relationship with a man during his stay in Paris. Using similes that relate the men to animals- “screaming like parrots” and looking “like a peacock garden and sounding like a barnyard” - similar to his disdain towards Parisian hotel-owners, David clearly sees them as lesser beings to him, finding the European displays and pride and sexuality difficult to understand and therefore wrong, a significant attitude towards Europe that suggests a general American feeling of …show more content…
Elaine K. Ginsburg implies that this conflict was somewhat inevitable in her analysis of their relationship and character dynamic, “Giovanni’s swarthy color, his Italian nationality, and marginalized class status contrasting with David’s blonde whiteness and American privilege.” It is very possible that this clash of nationalities and class may have been intended as foreshadowing by Baldwin, commenting on the radical differences between American and European attitudes. During Giovanni’s outburst before his arrest, he is highly critical of David’s American attitudes, both towards finance and sexuality. He describes David driving an “ugly, fat American motor car” , a critique of overwhelming American materialism, when he visits his Italian village, and having “no idea of the life there, dripping and bursting and beautiful and terrible” , accusing David that, after all his time there, he is still ignorant of how vibrant and historical Europe is, a highly significant comment from Giovanni that supports the argument of this novel criticising the uninformed American attitudes towards their native continent. He goes on to criticise the American view on sex in the 20th Century, with virginity being something that should be coveted and celebrated. Using metaphor, Giovanni likens

Related Documents