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Experience from Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie”

Reading James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie has been an exhilarating experience for me. The play encapsulates various tribulations of the Black community in the genesis of the Civil Rights Movement. Specifically, Act II portrays the explicit bigotry of white townspeople against the increasing number of newcomer black families (Baldwin, 1964). One of the passages that fascinated me the most is the conversation between Meridian and Parnell in the former’s church. Parnell argues that arming the Negroes will get more of them killed, to which Meridian says that “they’re slaughtered anyway” (Baldwin, 1964, 2.4.57). The conversations ensue amid the trial of Lyle Britten, who has been accused of murdering Richard Henry. This scene left me to consider the awful experience African American communities had under the Jim Crow laws.

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Notably, Baldwin employs flashback as a recurring rhetoric technique throughout Act II, which was confusing to me although carefully attuned to the play. Particularly, the author employs flashback right after the conversation between Lyle and Parnell, involving Richard, Lorenzo, Lyle, and his wife. Lorenzo, realizing the discriminatory treatment of Negroes, is indifferent to entering the store. He states that black people “don’t trade in here” and urges Richard to leave (Baldwin, 1964, 2.21.98.). The scene portrays bigotry from Lyle’s wife, who “feels” threatened by Richard’s presence in the shop. Soon afterward, Lyle interrupts and asks Richard to leave. The question that appears to resonate in these scenes is: Was Lyle’s prior treatment of African Americans indicative of his bigotry tendencies?

Essentially, Act II simulates the predicaments of African Americans during the segregation laws in the US. The conversations carried a wide array of feelings and attitudes towards the unjust treatment of black communities. The text left me to consider the possible causes of institutional racism in the country, especially after abolishing segregation laws. Baldwin’s play envisions the current struggles for justice and equal treatment for the African American people.

Reference

Baldwin, J. (1964). Blues for Mister Charlie. Dial Press.

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StudyCorgi. "Experience from Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie”." December 2, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/experience-from-baldwins-blues-for-mister-charlie/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "Experience from Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie”." December 2, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/experience-from-baldwins-blues-for-mister-charlie/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Experience from Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie”'. 2 December.

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