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Giovanni's Room

Giovanni's Room


by James Baldwin

Giovanni's Room Part 2, Chapter 3 Summary

  • Note to reader: Still part of the extended flashback.
  • After David leaves Sue, he finds himself alone, wandering down the river at night, thinking about death.
  • He isn't suicidal: "I simply wondered about the dead because their days had ended and I did not know how I would get through mine" (2.3.3).
  • David thinks about all the innocent children and wonders if one day they will be out wandering alone by the river – destroyed.
  • He admits to himself that he wants a wife and children, a safe and easy life. He thinks that perhaps, with just a short burst of strength, he can regain it.
  • When David opens the door to Giovanni's room, he finds Giovanni drunk on cognac, with his hair in his face, laughing out of hysteria and despair.
  • Giovanni grabs David and pulls him close. A moment later, he pours him a cognac.
  • David asks what happened. Giovanni begins cursing about how dirty all the old men are. He says that only David is not dirty.
  • Then he admits that Guillaume fired him, and that Guillaume was incredibly cruel. He called Giovanni a thief in front of everyone.
  • David feels like the walls of the room are closing in on him.
  • Giovanni says that Guillaume waited until the bar was full to accuse him and yell at him. He says that he wants to kill them all, and then he throws back his cognac and flings the glass against the wall.
  • David takes Giovanni in his arms and he begins weeping. David feels anguish for Giovanni, but also incredible contempt.
  • Giovanni begins to tell the story.
  • He says that as soon as he got to work he could tell that Guillaume was in a dangerous mood. He says that you can always tell when Guillaume has been humiliated because he pretends to be so respectable afterward.
  • At first, Guillaume was business-like, trying to find fault with Giovanni's work. When he couldn't, he called Giovanni up to his room.
  • In his room, Guillaume began asking lewd questions about his relationship with David. Giovanni says he wouldn't stand for it. Guillaume began accusing Giovanni of being very dishonest, of taking advantage of his emotions.
  • He reminded Giovanni of one time when he slept with Guillaume for money, and continued to slander David.
  • Giovanni refused to stand for it and left.
  • In the room with David, Giovanni asks for more cognac. David gives him his glass and he empties it.
  • He says they will be OK and then stares gloomily out the window.
  • Giovanni goes on. He went back to work. After the bar filled, though, Guillaume came down in a horrible temper. He accused Giovanni of being a thief and a bastard and emptied the register and threw the money at him.
  • Furious and embarrassed, Giovanni went to hit Guillaume, but all the men grabbed him and threw him out.
  • Staring at the wall, Giovanni says to David that, if it weren't for him, this would be the end.
  • David tries to cheer him up and tells him this can't be the worst thing that ever happened to him.
  • Giovanni says, "Maybe everything bad that happens to you makes you weaker" (2.3.23).
  • He says that the worst happened long ago and that his life has been horrible ever since.
  • Giovanni keeps asking David if he will leave him, and David denies it. Giovanni says he couldn't keep on if David left.
  • David suggests getting out of the apartment, getting a drink, and coming back. Giovanni says that he loves David and then goes and cleans up.
  • When he comes out, he looks rejuvenated and apologizes for going mad.
  • The two of them gather their money, which totals nine thousand francs (not a lot of dough).
  • David does not want Giovanni to despair and tells him he will write his father again, though at this moment he doesn't feel that either his father or Hella are real.
  • David has a "despairing sense that nothing was real for me, nothing would ever be real for me again – unless, indeed, this sensation of falling was reality" (2.3.39).
  • Alone (in the present at the house in the South of France) David thinks that he will collapse in anguish in this house. He thinks that his executioners lurk behind every wall and window and that if he calls out no one will hear.
  • He says, "It would help if I were able to feel guilty. But the end of innocence is also the end of guilt" (2.3.41).
  • David admits that he loved Giovanni more than he will ever love anyone again. Yet he knows that Giovanni will find relief in his execution.
  • David remembers a man at one of Guillaume's cocktail parties that had been in prison and written a book about it. He says, "I remember thinking that, in effect, he had never left prison, prison was all that was real to him, he could speak of nothing else" (2.3.43).
  • David thinks in great detail of how the man would describe his life there, of how when they dragged a man out to be executed he would only get one brief glimpse of the day before he was back in a dark hall again.
  • David wonders what Giovanni's doing. He wonders if he is writing a letter, if he knows that he will be executed, if he cares. David thinks that he is afraid. He wonders if he has to go to the bathroom, if his hair is long or short, if he has made love to anyone in prison.
  • David interprets these thoughts as proof of his love for Giovanni. He hopes that Giovanni has someone to make love with and thinks that, right now, he would make love with whoever walked in the room.
  • Note to reader: Back to extended flashback, here rendered in the present tense.
  • David puts off writing his father for money. He has a lie in mind, but he is afraid that by the time he writes the letter, it will no longer be a lie.
  • Giovanni tries to carve a bookcase into the wall of the room. It is incredibly hard, monotonous labor.
  • David finds the days torturous. He realizes that he is the only person in the world that cares about Giovanni, and he can't deal with the burden.
  • Instead of asking his father, David goes and gets more money from Jacques, who is surprisingly kind about it.
  • Once, he and Giovanni are having coffee at a terrace at Odéon, and he thinks that it would be perfect if Jacques would take Giovanni off his hands.
  • When Giovanni asks what he is thinking about, though, he says that he wants to leave Paris.
  • He says, "I'm sick of this city. I'm tired of this ancient pile of stone and all these goddam, smug people. Everything you put your hands on here comes to pieces in your hands" (2.3.58).
  • Giovanni says he will go wherever David goes.
  • David suggests Spain, and Giovanni thinks that perhaps he is lonely for his mistress.
  • David denies it and says he just wants to see it. He asks if Giovanni would prefer to go home to Italy.
  • Giovanni says he no longer has a home in Italy. David says that surely he is exaggerating, that one day he will go back just as David will go back to the U.S.
  • Giovanni says that everything bad will happen one day. He tells David that the problem is that when he goes back to the U.S. he will realize that he no longer has a home there and then he will really be in a fix.
  • David is amused, saying "Beautiful logic. You mean I have a home to go to as long as I don't go there" (2.3.73).
  • David suggests he could shut his ears to the problem, and Giovanni says he is like a man who would put himself in prison to avoid being hit by a car.
  • David says he thinks Giovanni is actually speaking of himself, and Giovanni says he doesn't know what he is talking about.
  • David says he is speaking of Giovanni's awful little room. Giovanni becomes indignant and asks where else he should live. He wants to know how long David has hated the room.
  • David apologizes for hurting his feelings, but Giovanni feels that David is being too formal, even in his apology.
  • Giovanni bursts out that David wants to leave Paris and the room.
  • David says that Giovanni misunderstands him and Giovanni says he hopes that that is the case.
  • Later, in the room, Giovanni asks if David has heard from Hella, and David says she might turn up any day now.
  • Giovanni asks David to embrace him, and he hesitates. They both have bricks in their hand from working on the wall.
  • David says, "It really seemed for an instant that if I did not go to him, we would use these bricks to beat each other to death" (2.3.97).
  • Giovanni again demands that David come to him. They embrace.
  • David says, "At moments like this I felt that we were merely enduring and committing the longer and lesser and more perpetual murder" (2.3.100).

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