Giovanni’s Room

by

James Baldwin

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Giovanni’s Room can help.

Giovanni’s Room Symbol Analysis

Giovanni’s Room Symbol Icon

Because David and Giovanni’s relationship is predominantly confined to the privacy of the small and squalid room that Giovanni rents on the outskirts of Paris, the room itself signifies the hidden and shame-ridden nature of their affair. Although people like Jacques and Guillaume know that David and Giovanni are together, their relationship remains more or less secretive. David’s girlfriend, Hella, knows nothing about it despite the fact that David has been living in Giovanni’s room for months by the time she returns to Paris. At one point, David tells Giovanni that he wishes they could leave the room behind, since it’s so stiflingly small, which parallels David’s underlying desire to escape the equally stifling expectations that society places on him (and thus, that he places on himself) to be heterosexual. This desire is in keeping with David’s tendency to view relocation as a means by which he can escape his problems, since he only suggests that they move once their relationship (and his insecurities about his sexual identity) hits a rough patch. And though they don’t actually move, David continues to see the room as an overbearing place, feeling as if the walls and clutter are closing in on him. In this manner, the room comes to represent how overwhelmed David is by his effort to conceal his sexual identity as a gay man—an endeavor that makes him feel boxed into a secret and restricted existence.

Get the entire Giovanni’s Room LitChart as a printable PDF.
Giovanni’s Room PDF

Giovanni’s Room Symbol Timeline in Giovanni’s Room

The timeline below shows where the symbol Giovanni’s Room appears in Giovanni’s Room. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 3
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
...Guillaume and Jacques at the restaurant, Giovanni insists that David  should come back to his room, which is a small lodging on the outskirts of Paris. Refusing to entertain any other... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 1
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
After their first night together, David moves into Giovanni’s room. It’s nearly springtime in Paris, and they develop a routine wherein David meets Giovanni just... (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
Giovanni’s room is so messy and squalid that in the first stages of their relationship, David entertains... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 3
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
As David walks toward Giovanni’s room along the Seine, he thinks about all the bustling lives playing out at that moment... (full context)
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
After Giovanni loses his job, he spends his time trying to improve his room by installing bookshelves, though David feels as if this work amounts to little more than... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Returning to their room after discussing the possibility of leaving Paris, Giovanni asks David if he’s heard from Hella... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 4
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
...three days since Hella arrived in Paris, and David has yet to return to Giovanni’s room. He has been busy wandering the city with Hella, having long conversations about her time... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
...clearly unsettled by Giovanni’s raw emotion. David tells her that they’ve simply been sharing a room, explaining that Giovanni is only his roommate and, as such, doesn’t deserve to be so... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
Late the next night, David goes to Giovanni’s room. Giovanni is asleep, but he jumps up when the door opens. Seeing that it’s David,... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Gender and Societal Expectations Theme Icon
Taken aback by Giovanni’s story, David stands and turns to leave. The room feels claustrophobic and in constant motion, and he hears Giovanni pleading with him to stay.... (full context)
Sexual Orientation and Denial Theme Icon
Travel, Identity, and Emotional Escape Theme Icon
...about to leave, he looks at Giovanni and knows he must get out of his room before he loses his willpower. Walking on the street, he recognizes that he will cry... (full context)