Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Baldwin layers this story in several ways. At her job, Ruth finds the possibility for a better life opening up as she and Davis benefit from the integration of African Americans into better jobs. Davis’s promotion promises to improve Ruth’s own life, and their friendship suggests the possibility of a more fulfilling love relationship. Beneath this layer of bright prospects, however, is Ruth’s brooding over her failing love relationship, and beneath that is another layer of fundamental guilt and terror over her family’s betrayal of her innocence.

Baldwin moves the reader back and forth through these layers, always coming back to Ruth’s fundamental problem—her family’s failure to love her. Throughout the story, events in Ruth’s day return her to thoughts of Paul, and then to thoughts about how she came to be as lost as she is. As Baldwin brings these three layers of experience into focus, words and events take on increasingly rich meanings. Each rereading of the story leads to new discoveries of the depth of Ruth’s experiences, until the reader feels resonances that are only suggested. For example, in their morning conversation, Paul says it is time to paint a portrait of her, which she silently reads as a sign that he considers their relationship over. Paul’s joke that he could sell her for a thousand dollars hurts her because it makes her remember how her female ancestors were bought and sold for sexual use. On the level that Paul...

(The entire section is 473 words.)

Come Out the Wilderness Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Fabré, Michel. “James Baldwin in Paris: Love and Self-Discovery.” In From Harlem to Paris: Black American Writers in France, 1840-1980. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991.

Hardy, Clarence E. James Baldwin’s God: Sex, Hope, and Crisis in Black Holiness Culture. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2003.

Kinnamon, Keneth, comp. James Baldwin: A Collection of Critical Essays. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1974.

Leeming, David. James Baldwin: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

Miller, D. Quentin, ed. Re-viewing James Baldwin: Things Not Seen. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2000.

O’Daniel, Therman B., ed. James Baldwin: A Critical Evaluation. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1981.

Porter, Horace A. Stealing the Fire: The Art and Protest of James Baldwin. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1989.

Standley, Fred L., and Nancy V. Burt, eds. Critical Essays on James Baldwin. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988.

Sylvander, Carolyn Wedin. James Baldwin. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1980.

Tomlinson, Robert. “’Payin’ One’s Dues’: Expatriation as Personal Experience and Paradigm in the Works of James Baldwin.” African American Review 33 (Spring, 1999): 135-148.

Troupe, Quincy, ed. James Baldwin: The Legacy. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

Weatherby, W. J. James Baldwin: Artist on Fire. New York: Donald I. Fine, 1989.