Going to Meet the Man

Going to Meet the Man Quotes and Analysis

Now the hall was filled with a rushing wind on which forever rides the Lord, death or healing indifferently in His hands. Under this fury the saints bowed low, crying out “holy!” and tears fell. On the open deck sinners stood and watched, beyond them the fiery sun and the deep river, the black-brown-green, unchanging cliffs. That sun, which covered earth and water now, would one day refuse to shine, the river would cease its rushing and its numberless dead would rise; the cliffs would shiver, crack, fall and where they had been would then be nothing but the unleased wrath of God.

Narrator, "The Outing"

This passage describes the scene of the church service on board the chartered boat on its way to Bear Mountain in "The Outing." The scene describes the "sinners" standing on the fringes of the service, and the "saints" participating, oblivious to the sinners' presence. Despite their different perspectives and involvement in the situation, all those aboard experience the same physical circumstances of the boat tossing and rocking on the river.

Johnnie felt blow over him an icy wind, all his muscles tightened, as though they furiously resisted some imminent bloody act, as the body of Isaac must have revolted when he saw his father’s knife, and, sick and nearly sobbing, he closed his eyes.

Narrator, "The Outing"

This quote describes the feeling that washes over Johnnie when he watches Brother Elisha play the piano, sobbing and overcome by the holy spirit. The allusion to the story of Isaac and Abraham from the Old Testament clearly emphasizes Johnnie's tensions with his father, who is both a man of God and a man who doesn't hesitate to make his son, Johnnie, feel like an outsider in his own home. In the story of Isaac and Abraham, Abraham is willing to kill his own son because God ordered him to.

After a moment Johnnie moved and put his head on David’s shoulder. David put his arms around him. But now where there had been peace there was only panic and where there had been safety, danger, like a flower, opened.

Narrator, "The Outing"

These are the final lines of the story, which demonstrate the change that takes place in Bear Mountain Park. It seems that Johnnie values his love and romantic relationship, however shaky it may be, with David; David, on the other hand, is interested in pursuing Sylvia. These lines communicate how something in their relationship breaks after David's moment with Sylvia in the park, which suggests a romantic future for them. This scene contrasts with an earlier scene in the story taking place on the boat, when Johnnie buries his face in David's shoulder and finds security and comfort.

It was perhaps because it was Jamie’s birthday that Eric was held by something in Jamie’s face. Jamie, of course, was very old. He was thirty-four today, even older than Eric’s father, who was only thirty-two. Eric wondered how it felt to have so many years and was suddenly, secretly glad that he was only eight. For today, Jamie looked old.

Narrator, "The Man Child"

This passage uses a technique called free-indirect narration to describe the way Eric sees Jamie on the night of Jamie's birthday. Though we see the scene from the perspective of a third-personal narrator, some of the language reflects Eric's point of view. We can see this in the verbal irony achieved when Jamie is described as "very old," when Jamie is actually relatively young. Eric's father later chuckles at the fact that Eric finds Jamie to be rather old, and talks about Jamie as if he were an elderly man. But the topic of age and childhood and Eric's fear of growing old also foreshadow his murder; for all his fear of growing old, he never ends up having a chance to.

There are times and places when a Negro can use his color like a shield. He can trade on the subterranean Anglo-Saxon guilt and get what he wants that way; or some of what he wants. He can trade on his nuisance value, his value as forbidden fruit; he can use it like a knife, he can twist it and get his vengeance that way. I knew these things long before I realized that I knew them and in the beginning I used them, not knowing what I was doing. Then when I began to see it, I felt betrayed. I felt beaten as a person. I had no honest place to stand.

Narrator/Peter, "Previous Condition"

At this point in the story, Peter has just described a scene between him and Ida wherein Ida suggests that he's been cowardly in the measures he's taken to avoid confrontation with the authorities. But as a white person, Ida is presuming that Peter's experience in the justice system would be similar to hers, when in reality he would face much harsher sentences. In this quote, Peter reflects on his ability to use his race as a rhetorical strategy and the shame he feels when he does.

These boys, now, were living as we’d been living then, they were growing up with a rush and their heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities. They were filled with rage. All they really knew were two darknesses, the darkness of their lives, which was now closing in on them, and the darkness of the movies, which had blinded them to that other darkness, and in which they now, vindictively, dreamed, at once more together than they were at any other time, and more alone.

Narrator, "Sonny's Blues"

The unnamed narrator of "Sonny's Blues" teaches algebra at a school in Harlem, and in this quote he is describing the emotional states of the boys he teaches and their social condition, and in a fatalist way predicting the many challenges they will face in their lives due to their race, their rage, societal forces, and popular influences like cinema.

And for a moment we are silent, alone in our room, which we have shared so long. The slight rise and fall of Harriet’s breathing creates an intermittent pressure against my chest, and I think how, if I had never left America, I would never have met her and would never have established a life of my own, would never have entered my own life. For everyone’s life begins on a level where races, armies, and churches stop. And yet everyone’s life is always shaped by races, churches, and armies; races, churches, armies menace, and have taken, many lives. If Harriet had been born in America, it would have taken her a long time, perhaps forever, to look on me as a man like other men; if I had met her in America, I would never have been able to look on her as a woman like all other women.

Unnamed Narrator, "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon"

The narrator of "This Morning, This Evening, So Soon" shares many biographical similarities to Baldwin, who also went to Paris to escape New York and America in general, which he found to be dangerous and entirely uninhabitable for a black person. The feelings of the narrator in this story reflect Baldwin's in that the narrator talks about feeling freed from the orbit of the white man's world of America. He could build relationships with people in Europe without having to factor in his race and the other person's race as something that influences how they interact. It's this sense of freedom that allows him to build a relationship with Harriet and start a family of their own; it's also this anxiety about America that fills him with fear for his son, Paul, when they make their journey back to the narrator's home country.

The sons of the masters were roaming the world, looking for arms to hold them. And the arms that might have held them—could not forgive.

Narrator, "Come Out the Wilderness"

This quote refers to Ruth's romantic experiences with white men in New York, and the general feeling she is often left with after the relationship runs its course. The power dynamic and social pressure on her in an interracial relationship with a white man always leads to shame, and the white men never seem to see her as more than a "phase" for them, a comfort or curiosity, when she is looking for a life partner.

They hated him, and this hatred was blacker than their hearts, blacker than their skins, redder than their blood, and harder, by far, than his club.

Narrator, "Going to Meet the Man"

This passage describes Jesse's perception of how the black residents of the county where he works as a police officer feel about him. The passage shows how his paranoia about the community's perspective on him is reinforced by his own racism. He associates the blackness of someone's skin with the figurative idea of the "blackness" of their hearts. The passage also emphasizes Jesse's feelings of impotence and his feeling of being overwhelmed by this new wave of resistance by describing the men's hate as "harder, by far, than his club," an instrument of force and brutality that has, for so long, allowed white men like him to subjugate people of color.

At that moment Jesse loved his father more than he had ever loved him. He felt that his father had carried him through a mighty test, had revealed to him a great secret which would be the key to his life forever.

Narrator, "Going to Meet the Man"

This passage describes Jesse's feelings towards his father after witnessing the brutal mob execution of a black man when he was just a young boy. The description demonstrates how Jesse's racism and hatred for black people was something that developed early in his childhood and is inextricable from perverse feelings of love, affection, and security in his father's household.