Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin

Meridian Henry
A black minister, wants life, hope, happiness, believes in his heart of hearts that Lyle killed his son
Tom, Ken, Arthur,
Juanita, Lorenzo,
black students
Mother Henry
Richard Henry’s grandmother
Lyle Britten
A white store owner, manipulative, liar, hypocritical, rotten-lying-scumbag, had an affair with Old Bill’s wife and killed Old Bill, has a little baby child
Jo Britten
Lyle’s wife, doesn’t know (or want to believe) that Lyle has such a severe hatred towards the black race
Parnell James
Editor of the local newspaper, “Jesus-figure”, good friend to both blacks and whites in the town, thinker of truth, as a teenager he loved a black girl and never has forgotten her, there are times when he is ashamed of being white
Meridian Henry’s son, his mother died by falling down the steps of a hotel- to which Richard believes that it was a white-man’s fault, moved up North in search for a better life- went into singing and dope
Papa D.
Owner of juke joint
Hazel, Lillian, Susan, Ralph, Ellis, Reverent Phelps, George
White townspeople
The State
Mob mentality
Counsel for the Bereaved

Plaguetown, USA
Drama, tragedy

-      Plague: “The plague is race, the plague is our concept of Christianity; and this raging plague has the power to destroy every human relationship”- Baldwin, written in the preface
-      Racial injustices. The question of which race is dominant, and who has power over whom. The set is a powerful symbol to the extreme segregation of the town and of the way people in the town think. Hatred, racism, inequality, poison, safety, and fear all fall into the way the different races think and feel.
-       Perception vs. reality. There are so many blatant lies and different people tell different sides of the story based on fact and their mind’s eye.
-      Religion and music- jazz, blues and gospel

The brutal murder Richard Henry begins the play, starting of with racial slurs and extreme hatred. Throughout the rest of the play, the reader gets a sense of the racially diverse makeup of this small Southern town and how these people go about their day-to-day business getting along (or not getting along) with each other. During Lyle’s trial thoughts are skewed, irrelevant questions are asked, and lies are thrown around in the dramatic battle of race. After the jury makes their final decision, the truth is revealed and a few of the townspeople take matters into their own hands.

“the world is a loveless place” I.33
“Maybe it was because he was my son. I didn’t care what he felt about white people. I just wanted him to live, to have his own life. There’s something you don’t understand about being black, Parnell. If you’re a black man, with a black son, you have to forget all about white people and concentrate on trying to save your child. That’s why I let him stay up North. I was wrong, I failed. I failed.” I.40
“I felt, ashamed of being white-“ II.62
“I am not responsible for your imagination” III.97 (Probably the greatest line in the entire play.)
“I am a man. A man! I tried to help my son become a man. But manhood is a dangerous pursuit, here. And that pursuit undid him because of your guns, your hoses, your dogs, your judges, your law-makers, your folly, your pride, your cruelty, your cowardice, your money, your chain gangs, and your churches!” III.103
“I’m just tired. Tired of all this fighting. What are you trying to prove? What am I trying to prove?” III.118

It made me so angry how people can think this way. I cannot possibly fathom the terror, the fear and the hatred during this time. It’s appalling how some people can only see the color of another man’s skin, and nothing else. I don’t get it- it doesn’t matter whether you are black, brown, yellow, white or purple- you’re still a person.

Loosely based on the 1955 murder of Emmitt Till in Mississippi. “This is one man’s attempt to bear witness to the reality and the power of light”- Baldwin written in the preface

Act 1 & 2: Laws, Justice, America, battle of civil rights,
Act 3: morals, truth, hope, right/wrong, religion. The court becomes obsessed with the little details that don’t really pertain to the murder of Richard Henry. Juanita has a beautiful monologue during her testimonial.

Flashbacks to go deeper into the stories of these townspeople. It would be really interesting to see how this is done onstage, especially during Act 3.

The play is dedicated in memory of Medgar Evars, and his widow and children and to the memory of the dead children of Birmingham

“Mister Charlie”- the black man’s name for the white man


Year Written:

Baldwin was born and educated in Harlem and then moved to Paris. Writing in Paris of sexuality, and racial issues- he became very active in the Civil Rights Movement. The deaths of Medgar Evars, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., touched him deeply and influenced his writing. Lorraine Hansberry, Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Marlon Brando also had a great influence in Balwin’s writing; Baldwin in turn influenced Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Balwin fell in love with Lucien Happersberger until Lucien married someone else in 1952.

Received an Eugene F. Saxon Memorial Trust Award, a Rosenwald Fellowship, A Guggenheim Fellowship, a Partisan Review Fellowship, and a Ford Foundation grant and was appointed Commander of the Legion of Honor in 1986.

Other Work:
Go Tell it on A Mountain- novel
The Amen Corner
Notes of a Native Son- essays
Giovanni’s Room- novel
Nobody Knows My Name- essays
Another Country- novel
The Fire Next Time- essays
Nothing Personal
Going to Meet the Man- stories
Amen Corner
Tell Me How Long the Trains Been Gone- novel
One Day When I Was Lost
No Name in the Street- essays
If Beale Street Could Talk- novel
The Devil Find Work- essays
Little Man, Little Man
Just Above My Head- novel
The Evidence of Things Not Seen- essays
Jimmy’s Blues- book of poetry
The Price of the Ticket- essays
Harlem Quartet- novel


No comments:

Post a Comment