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How did James Baldwin uses diction in the essay, "Native Son" and what is it saying...

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amy345 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 21, 2010 at 12:31 PM via web

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How did James Baldwin uses diction in the essay, "Native Son" and what is it saying about the relationship between him and his father.

Native Son by James Baldwin

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eir | College Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted January 1, 2012 at 11:36 AM (Answer #1)

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For the most part Baldwin speaks in the language of a college educated Northerner in his essay, using phrases like “a rather crushing charm,” and “suffered many kinds of Ruin.” Even the title of his essay, “Notes of A Native Son,” uses this elevated diction.

By doing so, Baldwin claims the language of the educated as his own, showing his ease with it and his right to its use.

Finer points to explore:

Baldwin also uses indirect discourse to let other people speak in his essay, and perhaps to show that the everyday diction of those at home not very much different from his own. Thus, we also get plain spoken phrases like: “white people would do anything to keep a Negro down,” but also a mention “Negroes sometimes call [the South] the Old Country.”

Furthermore, in one part of the essay, we see Baldwin’s education turning against him, when it causes him to imagine his father, “with war paint on and barbaric mementos, standing among spears.”

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