Reflective Essay On Stranger In The Village

            In James Baldwins Stranger in a village, he describes a small town in Switzerland that he visits, and also discusses different attitudes towards blacks in America versus Europe. Baldwins use of scope in this essay is very interesting and his technique paints a picture that brings the reader through his thoughts on how attitudes towards blacks were different in America, and Europe.  The Essay starts off with Baldwin explaining how people in the small Swiss village make him feel like a stranger, so different and alone. As the essay develops Baldwin begins to discuss the general attitude toward black people and how it is different between Americans and Europeans.

When Baldwin arrives in the small Swiss village of about six hundred, the villagers are shocked to see him: a black man. They observe him like an animal, however Baldwin does not see them as being unkind, rather they are unaware of black history in America. Baldwin explains how kids will shout “Neger” at him in the street, he does not hold this against them and simply acknowledges that Europeans are somewhat ignorant to the African American race. Baldwin also talks about how villagers would touch his hair since it was so different from theirs, and even try to rub the black off of his skin. The African American race was so foreign to the Europeans and so innocent, it did not hold the same heaviness that African Americans holds in American history.

As Baldwin further develops his essay his scope changes, he moves from the small village in Switzerland, to the larger view of Europe and America as a whole. Baldwin discusses how Americans essentially created the history for African Americans, and stripped them of any at the first blow. Although his history in America is not a pleasant one, he is not a stranger their, and people know what an African American is, as well as the history the Americans created for them. In Europe however the African American element is almost non-existent, Europe did have slaves however it was much less common then in America, and slaves were usually only owned by the very rich. Baldwin also talks about how Americans even to this day try and separate their history from African Americans; He says that this is a huge mistake, and that the history of Americans and African Americans are forever intertwined.

Baldwin’s used scope in this essay to bring us through his thoughts on why African Americans in Europe are treated differently then those in America. He brings us through a small Swiss town in which this ignorance is apparent, and then takes us into the wider view of American versus European history as it pertains to African Americans. This essay shows how much history can affect the culture of even a small village, and how that culture can effect how we treat other races, or even just each other.

Stranger in the Village

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Author

Baldwin, James

Genre

Article/Essay

Overview

Published in 1955, Baldwin's powerful essay recounts his stay in a tiny Swiss village in which "from all available evidence no black man had ever set foot." He contrasts his experience as a black man in this village with his experience as a black man in the United States, and from this point of view offers an insightful critique of the history of American race relations. He notes, "What one's imagination makes of other people is dictated, of course, by the laws of one's own personality and it is one of the ironies of black-white relations that, by means of what the white man imagines the black man to be, the black man is enabled to know who the white man is." Baldwin's essay illustrates the different ways we influence and reflect each other's identity, and calls for us to obtain a strong hold on reality so that we may refrain from deluding ourselves and recognize racial strife for what it is in order to overcome it.

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Type

Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.

Themes

Diversity and DifferenceExclusion and BelongingJustice and EqualityPower and PrivilegeRace, Ethnicity and Culture

Big Questions

Is difference a problem, an opportunity, a challenge or a gift?What does it mean to be a stranger or an outsider? What does it feel like?How do we know or identify privilege?How does race affect our relations to others?

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