If Beale Street Could Talk Questions and Answers
by James Baldwin

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In If Beale Street Could Talk, what theme is stronger,  "identity, the influences of family and upbringing on identity formation" or "love and loyalty to overcome adversity"?

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While both themes are strongly present in James Baldwin’s book, deciding which one predominates largely depends on the reader’s view of the protagonist (s): Is this primarily the story of two separate people, Fonny and Tish? Or is it primarily about their committed status as a couple? Because Fonny is the person who progresses, ultimately alone, through the criminal justice system, his experiences are very different from those of Tish, their family, and their friends. Fonny did not anticipate that he himself would be caught up in an unfair system, although he was fully aware that such injustices are inflicted on black men every day. The identity of rapist and criminal is forced upon him by the accuser and the police officer; although he is neither of those things, he must function as a criminal and an incarcerated man. Fonny’s family has not played a completely positive role, in part because of the parents’ conflicts over religion. His father’s...

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