Going to Meet the Man (short story)

"Going to Meet the Man" is a 1965 short story by James Baldwin, taken from the short story collection, "Going to Meet the Man".

Plot summary

Jesse, the town's sheriff, and his wife, Grace, are in bed. They are both White Americans living within a small southern city. Jesse wants to have sex with his wife, but cannot seem to have the energy or ability to get himself in the "moment". He lies with his wife in bed, waiting the night out with his thoughts and ideas. He calls out to his wife gently, to see if she is awake. She moans softly that she is; his wife was actually dosing off to sleep. Jesse cannot contain a racist thought in his mind about how he enjoys having rough sexual intercourse with black women, and in his mind he calls black people degrading names. While he is quietly thinking to himself, he hears a car come by on the gravel road. He then continues his thoughts about blacks, the town, and his own personal racist remarks. Even though he has racist beliefs, he thinks that he is a just, good man in what he does for the citizens. The husband informs his wife of Big Jim C's attempt at making quiet a batch of black men who were singing; the account is intermingled with vehement racism, though the man is sure that he is doing the right thing. He then remembers when he was a child and his father took him to see a black man being tortured with fire to death. Jesse's father is also the sheriff of the town. The black man that is tortured was apparently running away and was caught and found. His genitals were cut off while the white townspeople stood around watching this black man hanging from a tree, his hands chained above his head, tied to the tree. The black man was naked and a fire was set beneath him. Jesse was taken to this hanging/torturing as a child by his parents, both of whom make him watch this horrible, violent scene. Jesse is actually happy he was trusted to observe such an event by his parents.

In the last paragraph of the work, Jesse's thoughts return to the present moment, and he now has found that he is "excited" and "hard". He grabs his wife gently, and tells her that he is going to have sex with her as if she were a black women, intimating that he will have rough sex with her. In the last line, as he partakes in his sexual actions, Jesse hears a Rooster crow and the sound of tires on the gravel outside his house.

Characters

*Jesse, a deputy sheriff
*Grace, Jesse's wife
*Big Jim C
*Mrs Julia Blossom
*Otis, Jesse's childhood friend

Main themes

*racism


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