Bluest Eye And Giovanni’s Room There are several novels written by two of the worlds most critically acclaimed literary writers of the 20th century James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. But I would like to focus on just two of their works, James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. In these novels in some way the authors suggest a theme of how the past is rooted in the present. Now each of these authors shows this in a different way. This is because of the contrast in their story outline and the structures of their novels.
Yet they both seem to suggest that if the past is not clear then the present or the future can not be clear as well. One can not run from ones past, it will only dictate ones future. I would like to start with James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. From the very beginning of the novel we see this man standing in the window of his apartment building in France. He begins to reminisce about the things that he had done and the past that had caused his present reality. From this very moment the author begins to suggest to us that something about this man’s past is relevant to the plot or story about to be told.
The man, whose name is David, tells us about this person named Giovanni, and how he was about to face the guillotine. David also tells us about how his fiance Hella had left him. And how he told her that he loved her. He begins to go back in time to explain to us how he met and asked Hella to marry him, as well as to tell us that he lived with Giovanni. So what was this dilemma that Giovanni was about to face or had already faced. David dose not tell us at this point, instead he starts to tell us about this guy named Joey who was once his best friend, until that night.
The night that he began to feel different for him. He says: I laughed and grabbed his head as I had done God knows how many times before, when I was playing with him or when he had annoyed me.But this time when I touched him something happened in him and in me which made this touch different from any touch either of us had ever known. And he did not resist, as he usually did, but lay where I had pulled him, against my chest. And I realized that my heart was beating in an awful way and that Joey was trembling against me and the light in the room was very bright and hot. I started to move and to make some kind of joke but Joey mumbled something and I put my head down to hear.
Joey raised his head as I lowered mine and we kissed, as it were, by accident.(Giovanni’s room Pp. 13) He goes on to explain how Joey and him slept together that night, how it made him feel, how frightened he really was. He also expresses to us the sham that it made he feel about his manhood. This would be one of the most rooted problem of his past that would hunt his future. And it was not like he could tell his father, for David’s father was a man who had images of what manhood should be, especially for his son.
David had no one to help him confront this issue. This was an issue he had to deal with all by himself. The hatred the fear and the reluctance all pushed him into a callous way of dealing with love. He suppressed this issue so much in his subconscious mind that it began to illustrate itself in his decision he makes in the present. David goes on to explain to us the relationship he had with his father.
And how it too was a determining factor for the person that he became. He never was close with his father, because his father had a stereotypical of men and their emotions. And so even when David gets hurt in an accident (pg. 38) his father doesn’t want him to cry. He wants him to be a man, a manly man. It got to the point that David knew how to manipulate his father into believing he understood his emotions without necessarily knowing anything. David wants to stand up for himself and be a man like his father says, but he also knows he needs assistance even though he doesn’t want to admit it.
And so it carries out our protagonist into one of the few if any concrete decision that he makes in his life and this is when he moves to France. In Paris, he meets up with an old semi-sort-of friend Jacques and he meets up with a woman who would later become his fiance. It is then that he then meets with a new friend, a man named Giovanni. David and Giovanni connected instantly. And David would soon try to now explore that feeling of love once again. Even though he was engaged to Hella, she had gone to Spain and this gave him a reason to justify his relationship with Giovanni. His relationship flourished and bloomed with Giovanni.
Yet he never really recognized it. He still felt that it was somehow wrong for him to love Giovanni. He even says: The beast which Giovanni awakened in me would never go to sleep again; but one day I would not be with Giovanni anymore. (Pg. 111) David felt that Giovanni had risen a fear and intimidation in him that was rooted in his past, and this made him hate Giovanni as much as he loved him. David’s past reflects all his decisions throughout his present. David is very indecisive simply because what had happened to him with Joey and he was unable to speak to anybody about it.
He affects peoples’ lives without necessarily knowing that he is affecting it. David wants to be a man so much, yet he cannot seem to break the need for assistance from his father. Even though he was appearing to be free. Then one day David gets a letter from both Hella and his father. His father was beginning to get suspicious of what David was doing in Paris.
He wanted David to come home. In Hella’s letter, Hella tells him that she loves Spain but she wants to come home to Paris. This is when David once again makes a very rash decision based upon what he thinks to be true versus what he knows to be true. He decides to leave Giovanni even though he knows he does not want to stay with Hella. All the decisions he made that were now beginning to affect and hurt other people was beginning to make him think about death.
That is why when he stood by the river he thought of dying. He says, I had though of suicide when I was much younger, as, possibly, we all have, but it would have been for revenge, it would have been my way of informing the world how awfully it had made me suffer. (Pg. 136) David begins to reflect on all his decisions that he had made, but by this time, it was too late. He was never ever certain of reality.
For him, his reality was nothing comprised of nothing. By the time Giovanni is sentenced to the guillotine, David begins to feel sorrow. He begins to reflect back on all the things that he had done. And that is when he realizes that he really did love Giovanni. James Baldwin takes us back into the beginning of the novel, when David is in the house after Hella has left and he is peering out through the window of his porch.