Notes on Baldwin’s Notes

Reading Baldwin’s notes brought a whole new perspective to his story for me. When I read his Notes of a Native Son originally I focused primarily on the facts. I watched the transformation of Baldwin as he slowly took a turn towards the bitter and angry man that he has seen in his father when he was a growing boy. He hates for the sake of hating, as you see in the line “I hated her for her white face and her great, astounded frightened eyes” (Baldwin, 593). However after reading his notes, I have found it interesting to look at him objectively as a writer. Baldwin explains the drive of the writer and his own experience with writing and says that every writer “finds that the things which hurt him and the things which helped him cannot be divorced from each other; he could be helped in a certain way only because he was hurt in a certain way; and his help is simply to be enabled to move from one conundrum to the next–one is tempted to say that he moves from one disaster to the next.” (Baldwin, 3) I was very drawn to this line. It says that the very reason a writer is so angry, believes the world is against him and needs to express it is the same reason they work so hard to market their stories. It’s the hardships that build literature. He says for a writer to look forward he must take “a long look back”. To give this context to Notes of a Native Son registers a new tone to the piece. This retrospective story telling isn’t soley to draw attention to the social injustices that Baldwin experienced turning him into a bitter man, it is a look in reflection so that he can move on from it. With this point of view it is very nicely wrapped up at the end when he discusses his father and his preachings. The man he took for so cold and filled with hate led him to the conclusion to let go of all unimportant things. Hate was unimportant, race was unimportant. To harbor so many harsh feelings in your soul is doing a greater injustice to you than to the person you are so passionately against. This piece was not about getting you to agree with all of Baldwin’s traumas and to sympathize for him, it is to reveal one insight; if a man so hateful could find the realization that there was no room in his heart for hate, then all people should find the strength for the same battle. 

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