The Fire Next Time Questions and Answers
by James Baldwin

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Is there a theme of virtue in the story The Fire Next Time?

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The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin is composed of two separate essays. Both essays contain themes of virtue. The first essay is written in form of a letter to Baldwin's teenage nephew. The writer's nephew is filled with youthful angst and fiery energy. Baldwin plays the role of the righteous and wise uncle to his nephew. Baldwin is a kind of old sage who is helping the adolescent boy navigate through complex emotions.

Baldwin also guides his nephew through the equally complicated history of black in America, especially with regards to race relations. He advises his nephew to channel his anger toward compassion and understanding for the black experience in America, and that his youthful energy would be best served toward political action and social consciousness.

The second essay is an examination of Baldwin's own religious beliefs—particularly growing up in the Christian tradition—as well as the Islamic beliefs he encountered whilst living in Harlem. This essay has a theme of virtue as well, but more so in a philosophical context. Virtue, after all, is a Christian belief. Baldwin compares and contrasts his personal version of morality with that of the Christian version.

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