Baldwin's themes are varied and complex, but regarding any author's work it's best to look for common threads among the different themes. Most readers would say that race in America is Baldwin's principal concern. This is partly true, but consider the following about the topics dealt with in his fiction ...
Baldwin's themes are varied and complex, but regarding any author's work it's best to look for common threads among the different themes. Most readers would say that race in America is Baldwin's principal concern. This is partly true, but consider the following about the topics dealt with in his fiction:
The novel Go Tell it on the Mountain deals with a teenager's conflict with his strict, ultra-religious father (who is not actually his biological father) and explores the young man's pre-history, so to speak. The backstory of his mother and his biological father, and that of his step-father, is narrated, and Baldwin's theme is largely how the past has shaped the young man's own identity and destiny.
Giovanni's Room is a path-breaking novel about the gay subculture of the 1950s.
Another Country is the story of a diverse group of New Yorkers, both straight and gay, in the early 1960s and their interactions and conflicts with one another. Baldwin seems to be asking if these people are different from other Americans and constitute "another country"—or are they in fact emblematic of America as a country, or as a concept?
Race is a theme and an "issue" in all of the above-mentioned books. Though none of my descriptions mention the race of the characters, those descriptions are nevertheless accurate, tell what those novels are really about, and reveal what are, in fact, the central or essential themes of those novels. To return to our opening question, however: what is the link, or common thread, among Baldwin's concerns as an African American writer—his specific concerns about race—and the other themes described in my synopses above? How do all or most of the situations in his writings focus on both the status of the Other and the more focused "problem" of race? Or is there another factor in Baldwin's themes, involving a completely different aspect of the human condition?