The Fire Next Time Short Essay - Answer Key

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1. What does the word "Negro" mean, and how is it applied in The Fire Next Time?

The term "Negro" is used interchangeably with "black" in Baldwin's essays. The word Negro superseded "colored" as the most polite word to refer to African Americans and this did not change until the late 1960s after the Civil Rights Movement.

2. How is the essay "My Dungeon Shook" formatted and structured?

"My Dungeon Shook" is written in the format of a letter from the author, James Baldwin, to his nephew of the same name. The relationship between the two appears to be one of warmth and of mentor-ship, as the elder Baldwin imbues advice on his nephew.

3. Why does James Baldwin claim to have re-started his letter numerous times in "My Dungeon Shook"?

Baldwin writes that he has begun this letter five times and torn it up five times. The reason for this is that he cannot articulate exactly what he wants to say. He writes, "I keep seeing your face, which is also the face of your father and my brother." He is getting caught up in emotion and cannot express himself.

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