Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Why does James Baldwin find it so difficult to endorse the work of writers such as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Richard Wright, who would seem to be his colleagues in the struggle against racism?

Baldwin is described as having been influenced by Henry James, a white novelist whose characters tend to be part of the upper crust of society and whose style is very sophisticated and elaborate. Considering Baldwin’s background and typical subject matter, what could Baldwin expect to learn from James?

In what ways, other than in his identity as an African American, did Baldwin feel himself to be an outsider? Did his writing benefit from this outsider status?

In his essay “Notes of a Native Son,” Baldwin concludes that he must accept life and people as they are but that he must not accept injustice. Since injustice is always caused by human beings, how is this possible?

Can a white American ever be as conscious of his or her own race as Baldwin was of his?

What evidence is there that Baldwin abandoned his early refusal to read the Bible?