Going to Meet the Man

by

James Baldwin

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Themes and Colors
Sexuality, Pleasure, and Racial Violence Theme Icon
Civil Rights, Progress, and Resistance Theme Icon
Learning Racism Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Going to Meet the Man, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Sexuality, Pleasure, and Racial Violence

Set in the South of the 1960s, “Going to Meet the Man” opens with Jesse, a 42-year-old white police officer, trying to have sex with his wife. But as he struggles to become erect and Grace drifts off to sleep, Jesse starts remembering scenes from his past, including beating a Black protest leader nearly to death earlier that day and witnessing a brutal lynching as a child. What those moments have in common is…

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Civil Rights, Progress, and Resistance

Throughout “Going to Meet the Man,” Jesse responds resentfully to the gains of the civil rights movement. While lying in bed next to his sleeping wife, he remembers the excitement of jailing and beating a young Black civil rights protest leader, reflects on how white people have lost the camaraderie and sense of ease they had before the civil rights movement began, and thinks fondly of witnessing a brutal lynching as a child. After…

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Learning Racism

Jesse—the white Southern police officer at the center of the story—reflects bitterly on all aspects of Black culture and Black life, sometimes out loud to his sleeping wife and sometimes within his own mind. In a memory that comes near the end of the story, Jesse is eight years old and does not yet possess the same racist rage. In fact, his closest friend at the time is a Black child named Otis

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