The Rockpile

How does James Baldwin use imagery in The Rockpile?

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When Roy and the other boys fight on the rockpile, the fight is depicted using violent images of boys "clambering up the rocks and battling hand to hand, scuffed shoes sliding on the slippery rock." The boys "filled the air, too, with flying weapons: stones; sticks, tin cans, garbage, whatever could be picked up and thrown." When Gabriel attempted to touch Roy's wound, Roy recoiled, remembering the image of his fall—"the height, the sharp, sliding rock beneath his feet, the sun, the explosion of the sun, his plunge into darkness and his salty blood." In addition to the violent images, the story also offers one chilling image of a child's death, emphasizing the frailty of a child's life in Harlem. The image comes after a little boy has drowned in the river, when his father, Richard, carries his dead son through the neighborhood: "Richard's father and Richard were wet, and Richard's body lay across his father's arms like a cotton baby."

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The Rockpile