Giovanni’s Room

by

James Baldwin

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David’s Father Character Analysis

David’s father is an American man who, along with his sister, Ellen, raises David. After David’s mother dies when he’s only five, his father devotes himself to him, though he doesn’t know how to be a conventional parent. Rather than wanting to have a traditional father-son relationship with David, he tries to bond with his son as if they’re friends—a dynamic David comes to dislike because all he wants is parental support. Despite their unconventional connection, though, David’s father cares strongly about him. In particular, he wants David to become a true man, a sentiment he expresses to Ellen one night after coming home drunk. Ellen accuses him of setting a bad example for David by drinking too much and spending all of his time with women, but he doesn’t pay attention to her, instead insisting that he can raise David however he wants. Later, when David moves to Paris, his father feels at a loss because he doesn’t understand why his son would want to live so far away. When he implores David to return, David senses the old man’s concern, realizing that his father must sense that he’s attracted to men but can’t bring himself to ask him the truth.

David’s Father Quotes in Giovanni’s Room

The Giovanni’s Room quotes below are all either spoken by David’s Father or refer to David’s Father. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Gardners Books edition of Giovanni’s Room published in 2001.
Part 1: Chapter 1 Quotes

For I am—or I was—one of those people who pride themselves on their willpower, on their ability to make a decision and carry it through. This virtue, like most virtues, is ambi­guity itself. People who believe that they are strong-willed and the masters of their destiny can only continue to believe this by becoming specialists in self-deception. Their deci­sions are not really decisions at all—a real decision makes one humble, one knows that it is at the mercy of more things than can be named—but elaborate systems of evasion, of illusion, designed to make themselves and the world appear to be what they and the world are not.

Related Characters: David (speaker), David’s Father
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Giovanni’s Room LitChart as a printable PDF.
Giovanni’s Room PDF

David’s Father Character Timeline in Giovanni’s Room

The timeline below shows where the character David’s Father appears in Giovanni’s Room. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 1
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
...he could ever want to do such a thing. He’d also thought sadly about his father, remembering that he was all the old man had. Then, suddenly, he decided to put... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Thinking about his childhood, David reflects upon his relationship with his father, remembering that his mother died when he was five and that, for this reason, David... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Hoping to bond over a shared sense of masculinity, David’s father has always wanted to treat him as a friend rather than a son, but David... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
When he leaves the hospital, David and his father have a frank discussion about his future. David hasn’t gone to college and doesn’t know... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
For a long time, David keeps his father happy by leading a life that pleases the old man, even joining the Army at... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 1
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
During this period, David writes letters to Hella and his father without actually telling them much of anything. Privately, he feels as if Giovanni has made... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 2
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
One day, David receives letters from his father and Hella. The one from his father implores him to come home. His father doesn’t... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 4
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
David writes a letter to his father. In this letter, he claims that he has been keeping his relationship with Hella a... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
...subject, David tells Hella that he wants to leave Paris when the money from his father arrives. Although she’s surprised by this suggestion, Hella agrees to go wherever he wants, so... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
...and watches Paris turn from summer to fall. Before long, he receives money from his father and starts preparing to move to southern France, where he and Hella have rented a... (full context)