Going to Meet the Man Characters

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Going to Meet the Man Summary & Study Guide Description

Going to Meet the Man Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Going to Meet the Man by James Baldwin.

Johnappears in The Rockpile and The Outing

John is the eldest child of the Grimes family. In The Rockpile, the reader learns that John is not the son of Gabriel Grimes, the patriarch of the family, but a child from a previous relationship Elizabeth Grimes had. It is unclear if John is aware of his illegitimacy, but it is clear that Gabriel is aware of it and it makes him very unhappy. For this reason, John is often the object of his father's anger and abuse.

John is the elder child, therefore in the Rockpile he is expected to keep his younger brother, Roy, from playing on a rockpile across the street from their apartment building. Roy, however, has a mind of his own and decides to go over anyway. John allows him to go when he promises to be gone only five minutes. However, John becomes engrossed in a drawing and loses track of time until he becomes aware that Roy has been injured. The injury is minor, but John is punished for not telling his mother that Roy had left.

In The Outing, it becomes clear to the reader that John is a homosexual. John is in love with a friend named David. It is not clear if the boys have ever indulged their love, but it is clear that David knows that homosexuality is a sin in the church and if he wants to be saved, he must give it up. As a result, John finds himself pushed out as David turns to a girl who has been saved and is willing to help David find his own salvation.

Royappears in The Rockpile and The Outing

Roy is the second son in the Grimes family and his father's first born son. Roy is the favored son and often gets away with things that John is unable to, or is actually blamed for. When Roy goes to the rockpile to play with his friends, he does not think about anyone else, especially John. Roy is injured and comes home crying hysterically with a small cut on his forehead. In this story the boys' father does not blame Roy even though it was his choice to go to the rockpile. Instead, the father blames John for not telling his mother that Roy had left or stopping Roy in the first place.

In The Outing, Roy is a secondary character who does not play a large role in the plot. However, Roy is one of the boys who is in love with the young woman and who helps pay for the birthday present all three boys, Roy, David, and John, want to give to her. In fact, Roy is with David when they actually give the present to the girl. Once again, Roy is more carefree than his brother, more confident in himself and his relationship with others, providing a contrast to his more humble brother John.

Gabriel Grimesappears in The Rockpile and The Outing

Gabriel is the patriarch of the Grimes family. Gabriel was once a pastor in his own church and is now a deacon in the local church, therefore he believes himself to be saved. Gabriel often forces his religious beliefs on his children, encouraging them to refrain from behavior that might not be moral or holy. Gabriel is an abusive man who often beats his children, especially John. Gabriel is angry with John because he is not his child, but the result of a relationship his wife had before their marriage.

Gabriel loves his children and is especially close to his eldest son, Roy. Gabriel does not try to hide his love for Roy from John, but in fact flaunts it in front of him. Gabriel is hard on his children, often pushing them to make him proud in the church and the community. Gabriel is also hard on his wife, occasionally beating her for perceived infractions.

Ericappears in The Man Child

Eric is eight years old. Eric's father is a farmer and he tells Eric that one day the land will all be his. Eric is happy with this thought, believing it is important to own land. Eric's father has a good friend who is immature and who drinks a lot. This friend loses his land because of poor management and his friend, Eric's father, buys it. This friend is lonely, afraid he will die alone and never have all the things that his friend has. For this reason, one afternoon after Eric has been playing alone, exploring the land that will one day be his, the friend lures him into a shed. The friend then breaks Eric's neck even as Eric is promising him he can have all the land he wants.

Peterappears in Previous Condition

Peter is an out-of-work actor who depends on friends to provide him with a place to live. Peter surrounds himself with white people, enjoying their company and the idea of the freedoms they have. Peter's friend is Jewish, someone he hopes understands where he is coming from when it comes to prejudice. Peter's lover is white, a woman who married a rich man in order to allow her to spend as much time as she likes with her various lovers. Peter believes he fits in this world, but slowly comes to realize he does not. One night, Peter goes to a black bar and sits at the counter. Peter knows that he appears to fit in, but feels as though he does not fit here anymore than he fits in his other world. Peter wants to fit, however, and he begins to converse with a woman at the bar to make himself feel more welcome.

Sonny appears in Sonny's Blues

Sonny is only fifteen when his father dies and not much older when his mother dies. Sonny is left in the care of his brother, but his brother is in the army at the time, therefore they spend little time together. Eventually Sonny runs away and joins the navy, hoping to escape the drugs that fill the Harlem neighborhood where he lives. Sonny is a jazz pianist and after the navy makes his living in this way. Sonny's brother loses touch with him, only to read about him in the newspaper one day when Sonny is arrested in a drug bust.

Sonny turns to heroin because it is intimidating to put your life into an art form without the support of a mood altering drug. Sonny struggles with his own talent, filled with insecurity despite his wonderful abilities. Sonny has kicked the drug habit, but knows that it could return at any time, even as he returns to his beloved music. This puts Sonny in a situation that both fuels his insecurity and places him around users. However, Sonny has friends who understand his position and help him make the transition into music without the drugs.

Paulappears in This Morning, This Evening, So Soon

Paul is the eight year old son of an American singer/actor living in France. Paul's father is black, his mother is a white woman from Sweden. Paul has never known the prejudice his father has grown up with in the American South, does not even understand that prejudice exists. Paul's world has been Paris, his parents, and the security of his father's fame and wealth. However, as the story opens, Paul is preparing to move to America with his father and mother in order for his father to pursue his career further.

Paul's father worries that his son will experience prejudice for the first time and finds himself afraid to take his son to America. Paul's father once returned to America after living in Paris for four years. This experience was dark and bitter, an experience that left him convinced that he was better off in Europe. Paul's father does not want to raise his child in America and is, therefore, conflicted in this story.

Vidalappears in This Morning, This Evening, So Soon

Vidal is a famous movie director in Paris. Vidal directs the main character of the story in a movie that makes him famous and during which Vidal encourages his actor to draw on his dark experiences growing up in the American South. Vidal understands prejudice and persecution. Vidal once lost a wife and a child to war and is estranged from his only surviving child. Vidal has been persecuted for his political beliefs and now he is alone. Due to his experience, Vidal can relate to Paul's father and encourages him not to forget the past, but to grow from it. This lesson helps Paul's father fear returning to America a little less.

Ruth Bowmanappears in Come Out the Wilderness

Ruth is a black woman living in New York City. Ruth is raised in the American South by parents who are deeply religious. When Ruth is once caught in the barn with a boy, her family jumps to the wrong conclusions and force Ruth to beg for forgiveness from God. This leaves Ruth feeling like she is a dirty person, someone unworthy of love and respect. Soon after, Ruth comes to New York with a man twice her age who teaches her how to earn respect from those around her. Once Ruth discovers some measure of self worth, she leaves this lover and begins searching for someone who can give her the life she feels she deserves.

After time, Ruth falls in love with a white artist named Paul. Paul is a man who does not commit, and who cannot stay with one woman for long. Ruth knows that Paul is about to leave her, that he does not love her. This realization leaves Ruth once again feeling like the dirty child caught in the barn with a boy. However, after a time Ruth comes to realize that it is not her fault that she cannot make Paul love her. Ruth feels as though the white man is filled with guilt and cannot allow themselves to be loved by the women they desire.

Jesseappears in Going to Meet the Man

Jesse is a cop in a small town in the American South. Jesse is deeply bigoted against blacks, especially during this time of unrest in his little town where the blacks are beginning to protest the treatment shown them by whites. Jesse lies in bed the night before a big event at the jail, an event the author never reveals but suggests might be the hanging or punishment of a black protestor, and he cannot sleep. Not only this, but Jesse struggles to be physically able to have sexual relations with his wife. As Jesse lies there, he remembers being eight years old and his father taking him to the gory execution of a black man. Jesse recalls the brutality of the man's death and his father's sexual arousal from the spectacle. After recalling this event, Jesse is finally able to have sex with his wife, suggesting to the reader that a great deal of Jesse's mental health is connected to this horrid act over thirty-five years previous.

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