Go Tell it On the Mountain

Baldwin's Fiction: Liminal Agency and the Condition of Blackness College

James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk and “The Man Child” are both texts that demonstrate how the isolation of characters can yield overtly violent outcomes. Though the perspective from which Baldwin challenges dominant forces differs between the two texts, the race of the protagonists seems to be the underlying factor in how the characters experience and combat their own oppression, if they experience it at all. These varying forms of oppression range from gender inequality to hate crimes, but Tish and Fonny’s families are subjected to a condition by which they are trapped in their isolation and status with no viable way of escape. There are numerous similarities between the characters in If Beale Street Could Talk and “The Man Child”, but Baldwin's black characters do not have the agency to exist in a space that fosters freedom, agency, or even love; those who face similar oppressive forces experience them differently specifically due to the fact that white characters are not subjected to a hellish wasteland.

As Baldwin expresses though both narratives, those who are able to exist comfortably within the confines of American ideology experience a life that is less constricted by oppressive forces. Early on in If Beale...

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