Notes of a Native Son

by James Baldwin

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In Notes of a Native Son, how does Baldwin use his father's story to examine societal issues?

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Baldwin uses the story of his father's life and death to examine social and cultural issues in his present-day society by juxtaposing his father's lifetime with a tumultuous period of American history characterized by systemic racial injustice.

To some extent, the story of Baldwin's father is the story of Black America during a period in which growing numbers of African Americans began to challenge white society's endemic racism. Yet despite this, society remained steeped in racial prejudice and injustice, the kind that culminated in the shooting of a Black soldier not long before Baldwin's father passed away.

The riots that broke out in Harlem in response to the shooting are a harbinger of things to come. More and more African Americans may well have been conscious of their rights, but the killing of the soldier was a sign that, for the foreseeable future, the struggle for justice and equality would be as long, as hard, and as bitter as it was throughout the lifetime of Baldwin's father.

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