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Giovanni's Room

Giovanni's Room

by James Baldwin

Sexuality and Sexual Identity Theme

Perhaps the main conflict in Giovanni's Room is that David wants to love women, but he's sexually attracted him to men. He attempts to have it both ways but, in this case, love follows desire, and he eventually has to admit that his feelings for his fiancée, Hella, are empty and unromantic. Giovanni's Room is known for its frank portrayal of same-sex love. Much of that frankness lies in revealing the complexities within male love, which portray it as not so different from a heterosexual relationship.

Questions About Sexuality and Sexual Identity

  1. When does David seem at peace with his sexuality? When does he seem ashamed of it? When he is ashamed, why is he ashamed and how does this shame express itself?
  2. How does David's father express his sexuality? What effects might this have on David's way of thinking about his own sexuality?
  3. Consider the communities that David is a part of in Paris. How are these communities shaped by certain ideas about sexuality and sexual desire?
  4. How are Hella's ideas about femininity shaped by David's own confused sexual identity?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

David's memories of his father's carousing behavior suggest that, from an early age, he thought of sexual desire as a necessary evil, a weakness opposed to real love and serious relationships.

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