Feb 13, 2020 in Literature

James Baldwin's “Stranger in a Village”

“Stranger in the Village” is a powerful essay that describes the experience of being a black man in the village where only white people live. Although the story begins as a narrative about an extreme journey, further reading of the work sheds the light on concerns of the American racial situation in the middle of 20th century. Basing on the otherness of individuals, humans may create their opinion about people and, in turn, treat them in accordance with it. From such perspective, the author shows the difference between the treatment of black people in the United States and Europe. At the same time, the issue Baldwin discusses in his essay is the concept of racism and various people's reaction to the particular notion. Many years have passed since the publication of the literary work, but it remains relevant till present days. It is naive to think that racism has been overcome, as well as the evolution of the views has appeared. Therefore, “Stranger in the Village” is a topical prophetic essay written with a hard purity showing the severe experiences of the African-Americans in the world of white people purposed to evoke human consciousness.

In his essay, James Baldwin quotes deep intuitive understanding of a person observing relations between white and black people. Although the essay has been published more than a half of century ago, the situation has changed a little. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the issue of racism and its presence in modern society. Moreover, human attitudes towards others' difference can be regarded as the other side of the specific question. At the same time, the tone of Baldwin's essay deserves a specific attention. The writer uses a technique coloring the picture that supports the reader to travel through his thoughts. Thus, “Stranger in the Village” is a persuasive essay pondering on the general attitude toward the African-Americans in the United States and how it varies from the Europeans.

 

In “Stranger in the Village”, the author portrays a small town in Switzerland, discussing the difference between attitudes towards black people in the United States and Europe. At the beginning of the essay, Baldwin demonstrates his feeling of difference and alienation once he visits the Swiss village. His experience can be compared to those black people face with everyday living in the United States. However, while children in America could easily shout “Neger” at him when he passed the street, European people treated him as a stranger but did not demonstrate their brutality and great cruelty. In the village, Swiss citizens looked at the character as an animal. However, he did not notice them as being unkind, rather they knew nothing about the relations between black and white people in his native country. Therefore, one can conclude that humans who are unaware of the black history in the United States do not follow the generally accepted and practiced course of differentiation and racial discrimination. Although Europeans saw that the character did not look like them, they could not judge him or hate. Therefore, racial biases are nothing else but stereotypical thinking promoted but people who have a privilege from it.

Furthermore, Baldwin discusses the appearance of the black man and the reaction of Europeans to it. Thus, the writer notes that Swiss villagers attempted to touch his hair since it differed from theirs. Furthermore, they tried to clean the black off of his skin seeing the black person for the first time in their life. 

At the same time, the further development of the essay confirms the thought mentioned above. While the writer started his essay from the small village in Switzerland, later in the literary work, he moved to the larger view of Europe and the United States. For example, when Baldwin talks about Americans and how they have essentially created the history of the black people, he helps the audience to understand that African-Americans have always been regarded as a power that can be blamed for any fault without a reason. Although nobody can take responsibility for what history has unfolded, people remain curious about what they have never seen or what is different from them. African-Americans have passed through miseries and pain, but people of Baldwin's time still look at black people as strangers. Thus, while in America, a black person was regarded as an enemy; in Europe they were less common than in the United States that raised interest for them. Nevertheless, despite any country or nation, black people have always been treated as the outsiders due to their otherness.

Although the history of America and African-American people is closely related, Americans even to the present day attempt to separate their heritage from the black people. Unfortunately, racism is still present in contemporary society. Therefore, Baldwin's literary work is one more example of the historical influence on human treatment or other races.

Therefore, “Stranger in the Village” is a powerful essay showing the concept of racism and human biases towards each other. Baldwin's deep understanding of racism against blacks that he discusses throughout his work demonstrates that African-Americans have always been treated as aliens. The experience the writer had in the Swiss village is not an exception. Discussing the history the Americans have created together with the otherness of people, the author claims that black and white humans will never be the same. Henceforth, Baldwin's essay demonstrates how history can influence the culture and human attitudes. The author allows the audience to ponder on the racial issues that exist till present days.

logotype

Related essays