Notes of a Native Son

by James Baldwin

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Why was Baldwin's father bitter in Notes of a Native Son?

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During the time period in which Notes of a Native Son was written, African Americans were being segregated from the whites, and were forced to endure many injustices. Through this novel, Baldwin conveys the feelings that he had about his father’s bitterness and how it affected his life as well as how it affected him.

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In Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin describes his father as “certainly the most bitter man I have ever met.” He gives several reasons or possible reasons for this bitterness.

First, he links it to his blackness, of which he claimed to be proud but which was the cause of many humiliations and limitations in his life. He was already middle-aged when he became a father and was one generation away from slavery. Baldwin says that “he had already suffered many kinds of ruin.”

Besides the privations endured by a poor black man in the South, Baldwin’s father suffered from the limitations of his own rigid, unapproachable character, which made it difficult to form relationships, even within his own family. This inability to establish contact with others marked and marred his life, and Baldwin says that, while this was most apparent in his attempts to talk to strangers, he does not remember that in all the years of his childhood, any of his father’s children were ever happy to see him come home.

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