Last Updated on September 6, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 780
To begin with, the room was not large enough for two. It looked out on a small courtyard. “Looked out” means only that the room had two windows, against which the courtyard malevolently pressed, encroaching day by day, as though it had confused itself with a jungle.
This powerful metaphorical description of Giovanni’s room captures the situation of the two lovers in a hostile world. Though the room itself constitutes a place of escape from the world, its not being big enough for two foreshadows what will come to pass—namely that the affections of one partner will smother and drive away the other. Meanwhile, the presence of the courtyard outside is symbolic of a hostile world where instincts hold sway: in this case, the pathological instincts of hatred and disgust at the two lovers within.
He smiled, “Why, you will go home and then you will find that home is not home anymore. Then you will really be in trouble. As long as you stay here, you can always think: One day I will go home.” He played with my thumb and grinned. “N’est-ce pas?”
“Beautiful logic,” I said. “You mean I have a home to go to as long as I don’t go there?”
He laughed. “Well, isn’t it true? You don’t have a home until you leave it and then, when you have left it, you never can go back.”
This statement captures the paradox of David’s character. While he remains in love with Giovanni, David does not need to face the problems that this love will cause, how it constitutes a betrayal of Hella and of his family’s expectations. As soon as he set foot within Giovanni’s room, he was effectively imprisoned there, voluntarily at first, yet with no real option to depart without grave consequences. The longer he remains with Giovanni, the more jealously the other will love him and the more difficult it will become to escape his predicament.
I stared at absurd Paris, which was as cluttered now, under the scalding sun, as the landscape of my heart.
This negative view of Paris stands in sharp contrast to how David first perceived the city, as a place of wonder and possibility. Just as Giovanni’s cluttered room symbolizes his difficult past in Italy, so the cluttered state of Paris symbolizes the chaos that David’s spontaneous and thoughtless actions have inflicted on others: Giovanni, Jacques, and the woman he seduced upon hearing of Hella’s return.
“Maybe everything bad that happens to you makes you weaker,” said Giovanni, as though he had not heard me, “and so you can stand less and less.”
This quote foreshadows Giovanni’s fate, in that the worst thing that could possibly happen to him, being betrayed by David, will prove too much for him to stand and will set in motion events that will lead to his physical death. It also rings true for David, for whom a series of blows—first the news of Hella’s return, then the sentencing of Giovanni for murder, then his abandonment by Hella—will result in his emotional death, the reduction of his once-vibrant soul to a state of numbness.
“I do not know what I would do if you left me.” For the first time I felt the suggestion of a threat in his voice—or I put it there. “I have been alone so long—I do not think I would be able to live if I had to be alone again.”
Here, for the first time, David becomes uncomfortably aware of his lover’s dependence on him. What was once endearing now feels stifling, even threatening. The ambiguity...
(This entire section contains 780 words.)
Baldwin creates as to whether Giovanni intended to threaten or whether David simply interprets his statement as threatening indicates that on a subconscious level, David’s dissolution with the man he once loved passionately has begun in earnest. The “threat” here is not one of violence but of culpability. David does not fear what his lover can do to him externally but what he would feel if and when he abandons Giovanni.
I loved her as much as ever and I still did not know how much that was.
Here, Baldwin’s fatalistic understanding of romantic love is clear to see. David has known the greatest love of his life, that which he felt for Giovanni, diminish, and he has lost faith in his romantic instincts. He still feels some form of affection for Hella, yet he does not know the extent or the durability of this affection: a fact he now admits to himself where he had repressed it before.