Study Guide

Giovanni's Room Choices

By James Baldwin


Throughout Giovanni's Room, David tends to avoid making decisions. He is smart enough to realize, however, that not making a decision is just another way of making one. The problem is that he seems to always think that he has two false options, and that it doesn't matter which one he chooses. David would like to be able to choose who he is attracted to (he wishes he were attracted to women) and why, but he cannot and the result is that he regards his choices as insubstantial and unimportant.

Questions About Choices

  1. How free are the characters in Giovanni's Room? What factors constrain and control their behavior? Why does David think that freedom is unbearable?
  2. How does David explain the moments where decisions actually get made? Does he believe that it is possible to pinpoint where one makes a decision?
  3. What is the relationship between choice and humility in the novel? Does it seem accurate or does David seem to be portraying the relationship in a certain way for his own ends?
  4. What is the basic choice that David has to make, the one that underlies all others?
  5. What choice does David want to be able to make despite the fact that such a choice is impossible?

Chew on This

David always uses the same metric to make decisions: he chooses the path of least resistance. In this sense, he never actually decides to leave Giovanni, he simply realizes that, for the time being, it would be easier to promise to marry Hella.