Giovanni’s Room

by

James Baldwin

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Jacques Character Analysis

Jacques is an older gay man living in Paris. A wealthy American businessman, Jacques was born in Belgium and now leads a somewhat lavish life in France, where he hosts orgies and often has relationships with attractive young men. These relationships hinge upon the fact that he showers men in money, spoiling them in return for their affection. This is the exact dynamic that he and David have, except their relationship is strictly platonic because David insists that he’s heterosexual. When he runs out of money, though, he’s forced to call Jacques for help. Arranging to meet up for dinner and drinks, the two men find themselves at Guillaume’s bar, where Jacques takes an immediate interest in Giovanni. While relishing the opportunity to be seen in public with David, Jacques asks him to speak to Giovanni, wanting the young American to invite Giovanni to have a drink with them. However, this does nothing to increase Jacques’s chances with Giovanni, though this merely ignites sparks between Giovanni and David. Recognizing this, Jacques urges David to finally stop denying his sexual identity, offering him sincere advice about coming to terms with oneself and allowing oneself to be happy. In this way, Jacques exists as both an exploitative figure and a caring friend—a dynamic that resurfaces when he eventually takes Giovanni in after David leaves him without money. Later, Jacques is the one to provide David with updates regarding Giovanni’s legal battle after Giovanni murders Guillaume.

Jacques Quotes in Giovanni’s Room

The Giovanni’s Room quotes below are all either spoken by Jacques or refer to Jacques. 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 2 Quotes

As long as I was there the world could see and he could believe that he was out with me, his friend, he was not there out of desperation, he was not at the mercy of whatever adventurer chance, cruelty, or the laws of actual and emotional poverty might throw his way.

Related Characters: David (speaker), Giovanni, Jacques, Guillaume
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

“If that was his sister looking so good. I’d invite her to have a drink with us. I don’t spend money on men.”

I could see Jacques struggling not to say that I didn’t have any objection to allowing men to spend money on me; I watched his brief struggle with a slight smile, for I knew he couldn’t say it; then he said, with that cheery, brave smile of his:

“I was not suggesting that you jeopardize, even for a moment, that’—he paused—‘that immaculate manhood which is your pride and joy. I only suggested that you invite him because he will almost certainly refuse if I invite him.”

Related Characters: David (speaker), Jacques (speaker), Giovanni
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:

“There’s been no confusion,” I snapped. “Don’t you go get­ting confused, either.”

“I think I can safely say,” said Jacques, “that I have scarcely ever been less confused than I am at this moment.” He had stopped smiling; he gave me a look which was dry, bitter, and impersonal. “And, at the risk of losing forever your so remarkably candid friendship, let me tell you something. Confusion is a luxury which only the very, very young can possibly afford, and you are not that young anymore.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. “Let’s have another drink.”

I felt that I had better get drunk.

Related Characters: David (speaker), Jacques (speaker), Giovanni
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:

As for the boys at the bar, they were each invisibly preening, having already calculated how much money he and his copain would need for the next few days, having already appraised Guillaume to within a decimal of that figure, and having already estimated how long Guillaume, as a fountainhead, would last, and also how long they would be able to endure him. […] There was also Jacques, who might turn out to be a bonus, or merely a consolation prize.

Related Characters: David (speaker), Giovanni, Jacques, Guillaume
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

“I mean you could have been fair to me by despising me a little less.”

“I’m sorry. But I think, since you bring it up, that a lot of your life is despicable.”

“I could say the same about yours,” said Jacques. “There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be con­temptuous of other people’s pain.”

Related Characters: David (speaker), Jacques (speaker), Giovanni
Page Number: 56
Explanation and Analysis:

“Love him,” said Jacques, with vehemence, “love him and let him love you. Do you think anything else under heaven really matters? And how long, at the best, can it last, since you are both men and still have everywhere to go? Only five minutes, I assure you, only five minutes, and most of that, helas! in the dark. And if you think of them as dirty, then they will be dirty—they will be dirty because you will be giving nothing, you will be despising your flesh and his. But you can make your time together anything but dirty, you can give each other something which will make both of you better—forever—if you will not be ashamed, if you will only not play it safe.” He paused, watching me, and then looked down to his cognac. “You play it safe long enough,” he said, in a different tone, “and you’ll end up trapped in your own dirty body, forever and forever and forever—like me.”

Related Characters: Jacques (speaker), David, Giovanni
Page Number: 58
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2: Chapter 2 Quotes

“You want to be clean. You think you came here covered with soap and you think you will go out covered with soap—and you do not want to stink, not even for five minutes, in the meantime. […] You want to leave Giovanni because he makes you stink. You want to despise Giovanni because he is not afraid of the stink of love. You want to kill him in the name of all your lying little mor­alities. And you—you are immoral.”

Related Characters: Giovanni (speaker), David, Hella, Jacques
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Giovanni’s Room LitChart as a printable PDF.
Giovanni’s Room PDF

Jacques Character Timeline in Giovanni’s Room

The timeline below shows where the character Jacques appears in Giovanni’s Room. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 2
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
...for failing to pay rent. Because of this, he calls an older gay man named Jacques and arranges to meet him for dinner. Jacques is a businessman from the United States... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
...with other gay (or possibly bisexual) men, he pretends to be straight, which is why Jacques wants to be seen as his date, relishing the thought that people might think he... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
After David and Jacques have dinner and Jacques agrees to lend him 10,000 francs, they make their way to... (full context)
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
David knows that the only way Jacques will be successful in wooing Giovanni is if Giovanni needs money. In fact, even Jacques... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Giovanni comes to take Jacques and David’s orders. They’re both stunned by his beauty, but Giovanni politely defers when Jacques... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
When Giovanni returns to David and Jacques’s table, David invites him to have a drink with them. Just then, Guillaume appears behind... (full context)
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
...seeing the world, but Giovanni is only being playful. After a moment, Giovanni asks if Jacques is David’s uncle, and when David assures him that he isn’t, he admits that he... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
When David is on his own again, Jacques leans toward him and says that everyone is talking about him and Giovanni. With a... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Giovanni briefly circles back to David and Jacques, at which point Jacques drops overwhelmingly obvious hints about the fact that David is interested... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 3
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
...finally locks the door of his bar, it is 5:00 in the morning. Together, he, Jacques, David, and Giovanni decide to get breakfast, taking a taxi to another part of Paris.... (full context)
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
...the hostess welcomes this idea, David realizes that she’s quite adept at allowing men like Jacques and Guillaume to feel comfortable in her establishment, helping them find any excuse to flirt... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
While they stand at the bar, Jacques speaks to David in a low voice, saying that this has been an important night... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
In a serious tone, Jacques asks if David is going to treat Giovanni the same way he has treated him,... (full context)
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
After Jacques and David finish their conversation, Jacques starts flirting with one of the young men at... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Upon leaving Guillaume and Jacques at the restaurant, Giovanni insists that David  should come back to his room, which is... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 4
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
...As this conversation ends, they duck into a bookstore and come face to face with Jacques. (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
 “We were beginning to think that you had gone back to America,” Jacques says, and when David asks who he means when he says “we,” Jacques says that... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
...him to Hella, whom he calls his fiancée. Giovanni greets her coldly, at which point Jacques proposes that they all go out for a drink. Ignoring this, Giovanni addresses David directly,... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
...then return for a drink, but when he asks where he should meet Giovanni and Jacques, Giovanni bitterly tells him that they shouldn’t be hard to find. With this, David says... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
...with Hella. After saying this, Giovanni gives up. Taking out a bottle of cognac that Jacques left in his apartment, he tells David that they should have one last drink together,... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
In the days before David and Hella leave Paris, David sometimes bumps into Giovanni and Jacques. During these encounters, he notices a change in Giovanni, who’s always dressed in beautiful clothes... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
Soon enough, David starts seeing Giovanni around Paris without Jacques. No longer dressed in nice clothes, he spends time with a group of rough young... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 5
Money, Sex, and Exploitation Theme Icon
...willing to do whatever the old man wants. After all, he has already submitted to Jacques, so he might as well please Guillaume so he can have his job back. Arriving... (full context)
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
...he knows he can’t be happy with Hella, but he goes through the motions anyway. Jacques sends him frequent updates about Giovanni’s case, sending word about what his lawyer has said,... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
...for Paris. Next to him on the table sits an envelope with a letter from Jacques—the letter that informed David that Giovanni will be executed this morning for Guillaume’s murder. As... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
...to the side of the road. Stopping for a moment, he takes out the letter Jacques sent him and tears it up, letting the small pieces of paper drift away on... (full context)