Going to Meet the Man

Introduction

"Going to Meet the Man" is a 1965 short story by James Baldwin, taken from the short story collection, Going to Meet the Man.

Plot summary

Jesse, a small southern town sheriff, and his wife, Grace, are laying in bed. Jesse reflects on his encounter with a young black boy earlier that day. The boy was a part of a protest outside of a court house, and as such, he was beaten by both Jesse and other police officers. "When will they learn?" he says to his wife. After recalling the violent encounter with the young black boy, Jesse becomes aroused and wants to have sex with his wife, but cannot seem to get an erection. He lies with his wife in bed, waiting the night out with his thoughts. A song from his childhood is stuck in his head. It was an old slave song he heard the night before witnessing the torture and burning of a black man. The execution was made into a spectacle that many of the town came to witness, including Jesse and his family. The scene was gruesome and violent. However, young Jesse was proud of witnessing it, believing it was some kind of a "test" of his father's.

In the last paragraph of the work, Jesse's thoughts return to the present moment, and he now has found that he is aroused. He grabs his wife gently, and tells her that he is going to have sex with her as if he were a black man, intimating that he will have rough sex with her. In the last line, as he is having sex with his wife, Jesse hears a Rooster crow and the sound of tires on the gravel outside his house.

Characters
  • Jesse, a deputy sheriff
  • Grace, Jesse's wife
  • Big Jim C (possibly a reference to Jim Crow as well as a reference to Alabama Sheriff Jim Clarke, who orchestrated violence against those participating in the Voting Rights march from Selma to Montgomery )
  • Mrs. Julia Blossom
  • Otis, Jesse's childhood black friend
Main themes
  • Racism
  • Sexual repression
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexual violence
  • Black identity
  • Racial violence

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