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Giovanni's Room

Giovanni's Room


by James Baldwin

Giovanni's Room Memory and the Past Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

My face is like a face you have seen many times. My ancestors conquered a continent, pushing across death-laden plains, until they came to an ocean which faced away from Europe into a darker past (1.1.1).

Here, David is introducing himself to the reader. What does he mean that his "face is like a face you have seen many times"? Why do people always have a tendency to compare new faces to the ones that they have seen before? How is David, even in his melodrama, trying to strike up a rapport with the reader?

Quote #2

My mother had been carried to the graveyard when I was five. I scarcely remember her at all, yet she figured in my nightmares, blind with worms, her hair as dry as metal and brittle as a twig, straining to press me against her body; the body so putrescent, so sickening soft, that it opened, as I clawed and cried, into a breach so enormous as to swallow me alive (1.1.24).

Why might David remember his mother in nightmares? Does David remember his mother more as an absence or as a presence? How does he both deny and confirm his mother's death by remembering her as a sickening corpse? What does his memory of her have to do with her? What does it have to do with death?

Quote #3

"Nobody can stay in the garden of Eden," Jacques said. And then: "I wonder why." (1.2.17)

What does Jacques mean by this? How might you characterize David's personal "garden of Eden"? How about Jacques? Why can't they stay in their own personal gardens? If they could, would the story still be a tragedy?

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