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Giovanni's Room

Giovanni's Room

by James Baldwin

Choices Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

And these nights were being acted out under a foreign sky, with no-one to watch, no penalties attached – it was this last fact which was our undoing, for nothing is more unbearable, once one has it, than freedom. (1.1.4)

Why does David think that freedom is unbearable? Is it possible to make decisions when one is completely free? Does David prefer to have his decisions taken away from him or does he just want a few more restrictions?

Quote #2

And yet – when one begins to search for the crucial, the definitive moment, the moment which changed all others, one finds oneself pressing, in great pain, through a maze of false signals and abruptly locking doors. (1.1.22)

David is trying to pinpoint the moment where his flight began. Is there ever one "moment which changed all others"? What about David's situation is going to make it especially hard for him to find that moment, if there ever was one?

Quote #3

For I am – or I was – one of those people who pride themselves on their willpower, on their ability to make a decision and carry it through. This virtue, like most virtues, is ambiguity itself. People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception. Their decisions are not really decisions at all – a real decision makes one humble, one knows that it is at the mercy of more things than can be named – but elaborate systems of evasion, of illusion, designed to make themselves and the world appear to be what they and the world are not. (1.1.75)

We don't know about you, but David's words – "a real decision makes one humble" – strike us as overwhelmingly true. Yet what about David's particular circumstances makes him hold such a view? Why does he speak in generalities instead of in relation to his own particular situation? How do we choose when we make particular statements and when we make general ones?

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