James Baldwin is one of the most influential writers of the 20 th Century. His novel Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, he writes about a young man who is meant to be reflective of himself (Baldwin) in his thoughts, interactions, and his ideas. Essentially he addresses all of the issues associated with being a black male in the media “spotlight” of America. The fact that the main character of the novel was black and in the spotlight in the middle portion of the 20 th Century provides for a good plot in and of itself. When Baldwin throws in the twist of being a homosexual the issues mentioned above become amplified and everything becomes that much more complicated.
This novel introduced a new type of black man to white and black America. Of course there were gay black man in America before but none of them were in the spotlight nor were they accepted if they were openly gay. This novel was asking for acceptance of gay black men from white and black America. It was a different novel, but it had to be in order to draw attention to itself and then introduce the reader to a world that was not recognized in the overall culture at all. Using the spotlight or the fame was a key in asking people to accept this culture. It would be viewed as okay for a black man to be gay if he had other positive things going for him at the time because it would distract the people’s attention away from his sexual orientation.
... and the indignities that are suffered by the black man in America (pg 351)." He simply generalizes all Whites to ... not change. His preaching still focused on the Black man's plight, as he had done when he ... He lies the responsibility of the Black man's sufferings on the White man unconditionally, that it is their entire ... The Racist Malcolm was a racist, violent Black Man. He has been an anti-white ...
Now John Henry Days by Colson Whitehead on the other hand focused on the more “admirable” black man of the 20 th century. As a typical figure of the male culture John Henry set the standard for black men. Black men were supposed to be masculine, strong, and demanding. There were too many obstacles in life for a black man for him to be weak. In the novel John Henry Days both Baldwin and his novel would be seen as weak because homosexuality was and still is an issue in the African American culture. In comparison however, Colson’s novel is actually the one that is weak.
The structure of the novel was unpredictable and annoyingly so. The novel jumps from character to character and time period to time period. The reader has a hard time following it all in one sitting and is reminded of William Faulkner’s jumpy style of writing. The book may have been more effective in its depiction of the myth of the strong black man if it actually was shorter and less concerned with characters that did not matter.
It is okay to give different perspectives of a story but every perspective is not necessary. The overall focus and purpose of Baldwin’s book was better in this case.