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Giovanni's Room

Giovanni's Room

by James Baldwin

Repression Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

I was ashamed. The very bed, in its sweet disorder, testified to vileness. I wondered what Joey's mother would say when she saw the sheets. Then I thought of my father, who had no one in the world but me, my mother having died when I was little. A cavern opened in my mind, black, full of rumor, suggestion, of half-heard, half-forgotten, half-understood stories, full of dirty words. (1.1.19)

Notice, here, that David condemns himself. He begins spinning rumors about himself. What makes David do this? Is his guilt borne within himself or has it somehow been planted within him?

Quote #2

The incident with Joey had shaken me profoundly and its effect was to make me secretive and cruel. I could not discuss what had happened to me with anyone, I could not even admit it to myself; and, while I never thought about it, it remained, nevertheless, at the bottom of my mind, as still and as awful as a decomposing corpse. And it changed, it thickened, it soured the atmosphere of my mind. (1.1.51)

Why does guilt make David "secretive and cruel"? If he understood why he felt guilty is it possible that he would be more open about it? Does secrecy somehow prolong guilt and nourish it? David's narrative, the story we're reading, is a sort of confession. Do you think this sort of confession relieves guilt and allows for honesty?

Quote #3

And we got on quite well, really, for the vision I gave my father of my life was exactly the vision in which I myself most desperately needed to believe. (1.1.74)

What exactly is the image of himself that David gives to his father? In what ways does our public persona always conceal something about ourselves and leave it private? Is there any way to change the relationship between the public and the private self?

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