Going to Meet the Man

by James Baldwin

Start Free Trial

Student Question

How does morality influence the story "Going to Meet the Man"?

Expert Answers

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

Frankly, morality does not play into this story at all. It is a morally reprehensible tale about a racist man named Jesse who is only able to perform sexually after recalling an incident from his childhood when he watched a black man be castrated, hanged, and burnt to death.

As an adult, Jesse is a policeman and has made a career out of arresting, beating, and torturing black men who have been involved in protests. He expresses satisfaction at having had the opportunity to beat up a man who had "talked back" to him as a child years earlier. The story is filled with tales of brutality and Jesse's general antagonism toward black people.

In the aftermath of not being able to perform in the bedroom with his wife, Jesse lies in the dark and fantasizes about setting fire to black people's homes. This harrowing story likens sexual performance to white supremacy.

This story is set at a time when the Old South had just become a thing of the past, and black people now had the franchise and were registering to vote in order to maximize their newfound freedom.

If we accept the Oxford Dictionary's definition of morality as "principles concerning right and wrong or good and bad behavior," then it is evident that Jesse does not prescribe to any moral code. His thoughts, justifications, and actions are all firmly entrenched in racism and, in the short-term, his desire to be able to perform sexually.

The only way in which this story could be argued to have a moral element is if one accepted that Jesse did have a moral code, one that stemmed from his belief of being superior.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial