The main theme of Baldwin's story is the link between racism and sexuality. The brutal, violent oppression carried out against black people in the Jim Crow South, Baldwin implies, is a means by which white men attempt to compensate for their own feelings of sexual inferiority and their fear of African Americans.
The story is seen through the eyes of a white man named Jesse. Though Jesse is arguably as racist as anyone else, he is troubled in some sense by the conflict that exists between whites and blacks and the role that he, as a policeman, is tasked with carrying out: arresting and beating up black men. Without understanding or necessarily even caring if there is a solution to all of this, he recognizes on some level that the racial dynamic of his time and place is wrong and immoral—or at least unsustainable.
To an extent, Jesse is analogous to Orwell's persona in "Shooting an Elephant," though he lacks Orwell's insight and sympathy for the people being oppressed. In both cases, a...
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