Giovanni's Room Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How do we see mirrors in the text?

    David fears what he knows is in him, his desires and potential to love a man, but he is ultimately unable to eradicate his fears and it will eventually lead to his tragic demise. At the climax in the novel, David reaches a breaking point within the confines of the room and Giovanni asserts in response, “you love your purity, you love your mirror” (142). Giovanni’s allegation is that David is able to look in the mirror and never see what is truly there as it is impossible for one person to see their true reflection they can only view others completely. David’s purity lies within his own proclamation of innocence and lack of clarity, though it becomes increasingly obvious that David’s “innocence” is an internal façade. David fears what he can see in others, for example Giovanni’s pain and desire to please others, Jacques perpetual darkness, his father’s inability to maintain a solid fatherly role, and even his mother’s utter lack of tangible existence in his memory. When David sees something underlying in the people around him he becomes overcome with dread, anguish, and uncontainable guilt because ultimately the same pain he sees in them is ever present in him as well.

  2. 2

    Why is the car crash a so traumatic for David?

    The car crash for David seems to be a vital incident that causes him to escape the confines of America. For David, his mother (and her subsequent memory) and his Aunt Ellen provide an image of what he cannot be and should not be. Though his mother is dead her memory still haunts him in a way that causes him to fear ever being grounded, whether it be in America or oversees. David’s Aunt polices David’s father into fitting into the strict role of masculinity. David describes that his, “father was at his best, boyish and expansive”. In this sense, David views his father’s boyishness as something that sets him apart and it’s this boyishness that David finds comfort in when he is a young boy. David’s budding transition from boy to man is stunted because he feels that his father does not represent masculinity and manhood in the way that is tangible. The car crash allows David to see that his father cannot possibly live up to the masculine ideal that David himself will never exemplify as well. This single incident connects to what Baldwin would call the ideal of masculinity, it’s a violent act muddled with perversion, sin, and death and from this incident David has the choice to stay or run.

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