Why was Baldwin’s father bitter?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin describes his father as “certainly the most bitter man I have ever met.” He gives several reasons or possible reasons for this bitterness.

First, he links it to his blackness, of which he claimed to be proud but which was the cause of many humiliations and limitations in his life. He was already middle-aged when he became a father and was one generation away from slavery. Baldwin says that “he had already suffered many kinds of ruin.”

Besides the privations endured by a poor black man in the South, Baldwin’s father suffered from the limitations of his own rigid, unapproachable character, which made it difficult to form relationships, even within his own family. This inability to establish contact with others marked and marred his life, and Baldwin says that, while this was most apparent in his attempts to talk to strangers, he does not remember that in all the years of his childhood, any of his father’s children were ever happy to see him come home.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial