Style and Technique
When James Baldwin wrote “This Morning, This Evening, So Soon,” he was already famous, as is the nameless narrator of his story. The story reflects some autobiographical details much in the same way as his first novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953), suggested the author’s early life in Harlem. As an expatriate writer, Baldwin was indebted to the French for accepting his blackness and cradling his creativity. Although Baldwin himself never married and had no son, his tormented relationship with his stepfather bothered him all of his life. Finally, success never satisfied Baldwin, and his fight against racism continued until his death.
Baldwin writes in the first person in a confessional style that manages in a few short pages to cover much historical and geographical territory. With his ability to weave flashbacks into the present narrative, he provides a picture of two cultures and demonstrates the conflicts inherent in the narrator’s ambivalent position. As an African American living in France with a white wife and a small son, he must make important choices. Baldwin expertly increases the tension by having the story occur on the eve of the narrator’s departure. Caught between two worlds, Baldwin uses a close confessional style to create tension. The narrator’s psychological dilemma is reinforced by his night on the town. Once again he is caught between loyalties and must mediate some kind of compromise. The story is a good example of Baldwin’s mature writing style, in which he is able to depict white and black characters with considerable compassion while still showing the horrible effects of racism in American life.