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Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Samuel J. Sackett
There has been a marked deterioration in James Baldwin’s technical competence in his first three novels. Go Tell It on the Mountain, though a relatively simple first novel with autobiographical elements, is more competently executed, by all purely literary criteria, than Giovanni’s Room and Another County. Stylistically, the rhythms of the King James Bible and Negro speech which Mr. Baldwin uses so successfully in his first novel have been replaced by a more strained, affected style which is too often deadened by obscenities and an overly-emotional rhetoric. The plots of the author’s second two novels are at once awkward and contrived. This is due in part to an unnecessary use of the flashback technique and in part to a discrepancy between the characters and the effects they achieve. Instead of being an organic whole, these plots are episodic and disconnected, and, consequently, their structure is anti-climactic. We observe Mr. Baldwin’s greatest weakness in his characterization. His characters are inconsistent and often appear to by types rather than individuals. Their problems are either unstated or misunderstood by the author; as a result, the effects the writer is trying to achieve with them lack credibility. The cause of Mr. Baldwin’s technical deterioration seems to lie in his commitment to the Negro protest movement. That is, he has become too much a propagandist for that cause and has lost the objectivity and tolerance requisite for any purely artistic creation.
Copyright 1966 Brent Collins
Collins, Brent, "The Technical Deterioration in James Baldwin's First Three Novels" (1966). Master's Theses. 971.