Going to Meet the Man

by James Baldwin

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Student Question

Who is the "boundary crosser" in Going to Meet the Man and what societal aspects do their experiences reveal?

Quick answer:

The boundary crosser in Going to Meet the Man is Jesse, who crosses the boundaries of civility and humanity in his approach to black people. His experience reveals that he lives in a society that not only tolerates but encourages racist thinking and race-related violence.

Expert Answers

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I would argue that if anyone is crossing boundaries in this disturbing short story, it is our protagonist, Jesse. He is the epitome of racism, bigotry, and lack of compassion. The boundaries that he crosses are the boundaries of human decency.

In this story, he is lying in bed, thinking about how much he hates black people and wishes to see them in physical and emotional distress. The root of his frustration, in fact, has little to do with black people and much to do with the fact that he can neither sleep nor perform sexually with his wife.

His experiences reveal that the society he lives in is tolerant and even encouraging of racism in its most violent iteration.

The fact that Jesse lies in bed thinking about how much he hates black people and has to think back to the time he saw a black man castrated, hanged, and burned to death in order to perform sexually with his wife tells us just how far past the boundary his psyche has traveled.

Jesse lives in a world of white supremacy, in which black people are seen as subhuman, and there is therefore no crime in thinking and behaving in the way that Jesse does. While such actions were said to show the dominance of white men, all they actually showcased was their fear and cowardice.

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