If Beale Street Could Talk Questions and Answers
by James Baldwin

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What is the purpose of Baldwin including highly sexualized scenes in his book?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There is a very good chance that the inclusion of sex scenes in the work is Baldwin's way to add a layer of realism to his text.  Certainly, Baldwin has never been one to shy away from the realistic element of sexual energy that is a part of the human experience.  Sex and its graphic depictions in Baldwin's work is not something unusual.  Baldwin struggled through the issue of censorship and did not feel the need to acquiesce, for the most part.  His inclusion of sex might be a response to the need to suppress what he feels is his artistic voice.  At the same time, I think that a good case can be made that the inclusion of sex scenes in If Beale Street Could Talk helps to bring out a thematic element.  Baldwin explores the multiple dimensions of love in the novel.  There is love of self and of others, love for the future, self- love masquerading as religious love, as well as the inclusion of sex as love.  For Baldwin, it becomes evident that a thematic exploration of love has to involve love in all of its forms.  Sexual love is one such element and its inclusion might be a way to facilitate a greater understanding of the theme of love that is present in the novel.

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