Going to Meet the Man

Going to Meet the Man Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does the relationship between Johnnie and Roy develop between "The Rockpile" and "The Outing"?

    In "The Rockpile," it's clear that Roy has no concept of Johnnie's estrangement from his nuclear family. Roy doesn't understand that the consequences of his actions will not belong to him, but to his brother, Johnnie, because Gabriel views Johnnie as an "illegitimate" son. Roy's fascination with the rockpile versus Johnnie's aversion to it is evidence of this difference between them.

    By the time they appear in "The Outing," they're considerably older, in their mid- to late teens. It's clear that Roy and Johnnie have grown closer over the years, despite Gabriel's enduring favoritism of Roy. The difference is that in "The Outing," Roy understands the reason why his father favors him over Johnnie, and sympathizes with Johnnie in situations where his father's favoritism is obvious. When they're older, Roy is a source of strength and stability to his brother, rather than a source of further pain.

  2. 2

    Discuss Baldwin's relationship with Christianity as represented in the collection, Going to Meet the Man.

    The relationship of this text as a whole to Christianity and Christian doctrine proves, over the course of all the stories, rather complex. In the first two stories, the deacon Gabriel and the entire "outing" event demonstrate the hypocrisy of some churchgoing people, and in the title story of the collection, Jesse earnestly believes himself to be a "good, God fearing man." Jesse believes that it is his God-given duty to police black Americans and believes that white hegemony has a divine mandate to exist.

    On the other hand, Christianity played a major role in Baldwin's own life—he was a preacher for three years of his teens—and much of the Christian imagery used throughout the collection is used in earnest, as a way to elevate the characters and their actions. For example, when Sonny's piano playing conjures the image of the cup of trembling, it isn't because the story itself is couched in religion, like the first two in the collection; the symbol is rather used purely to deepen the significance of Sonny's playing.

  3. 3

    What is a possible explanation as to why Jamie murders Eric in "The Man Child"? Use evidence from the text.

    The most obvious explanation for why Jamie kills Eric seems to be that Jamie is hopelessly in love with Eric's father, but Eric's father cannot be with Jamie because he has a family, and he values his own prospects of a leaving a biological "legacy" behind after he dies. Eric's father has grown up alongside Jamie and has acquired everything Jamie hasn't; and Jamie's lack of a family, of land, and of requited love is the source of his insecurity. This insecurity is only deepened as a result of Eric's father openly belittling Jamie far what he perceives as shortcomings. When Eric's mother is away for medical reasons (she can no longer carry a child to term, but she and Eric's father continue trying to have children), Jamie spends the night with Eric's father almost every night. And in the final scene, when Jamie kills Eric, he explicitly says that he loves Eric's father. Of course, there is more than just one type of love, but it's clear from Jamie's actions that he's seeking revenge for all that he cannot have. Killing Eric, for Jamie, was an act of violence directed more against Eric's father than against Eric himself.

  4. 4

    What is the significance of music to the stories in this collection? Give at least three examples.

    Music features heavily in this collection of short stories, and music relates to themes of both religion and rebellion in the form of spirituals and hymns, and jazz, respectively. In "The Outing," Brother Elisha's ostentatious touting of his piety becomes secondary to his impressive piano playing; in other words, a lot of people on the outing, even the "saved" people, find Elisha a bit annoying. But when he starts singing his faith and playing the piano, a crowd forms around him and follows his lead.

    Two of the titles in this collection refer to songs; "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon," and "Come Out the Wilderness" are both lines from songs. The second comes from a song that Ruth's mother used to sing. And in "Sonny's Blues," music acts as a form of salvation or at the very least a temporary reprieve from the pain and struggle that Sonny describes to his brother.

  5. 5

    What is the significance of Paul's profession in "Come Out the Wilderness"?

    Ruth's boyfriend Paul is a painter in "Come Out the Wilderness." While Ruth has to rise early in the morning and commute to work, Paul sleeps until the afternoon, drinks his afternoons away, and keeps Ruth up waiting for him into the evening. Either Paul makes decent money from his paintings, or he's funded by some other source, possibly his parents, because the apartment where they live is an expensive studio in Greenwich Village.

    In addition to their vastly different work schedules, part of Paul's job as a portrait artist is to objectify his subjects. When he's preparing himself to break up with Ruth, he asks her once again if he can paint her portrait. Ruth sees through his request as a way to distance himself from her emotionally. He even says that he could probably sell her for a thousand dollars; he says he could sell her, not a painting of her, thus blurring the lines between what is Ruth and what is his own creation, an object that he can buy and sell.