Issues of color and culture were always the most disputable in our society. The main aim of this essay is to talk about a story “Stranger in the Village” written by James Baldwin. It is necessary to examine and explain how Baldwin’s presence is in anomaly and why people in the village respond to Baldwin the way that they do. One more interesting moment is to understand Baldwin’s reaction on being a stranger in the village.
First of all it is necessary to mention that the story “Stranger in the Village” is Baldwin’s narrative where he described his own life in a tiny Swiss village. In the beginning of his story Baldwin wrote that “from all available evidence no black man had ever set foot in this tiny Swiss village before I came. I was told before arriving that I would probably be a “sight” for the village…” (Baldwin, 1955). Baldwin thought that people in the village never saw such people as he was in relate to his complexion, but the main factor of those words were the color of his skin and his race. Thus, from the first words it becomes obvious that people’s reaction on black person will be strange. Such reaction is a part of historical memory for Afro-Americans to be strangers in places where only white people live. We can even find a description of Master’s laws (laws of the white race) in relate to black people.
Discussing people’s attitude to the “stranger” we see that some of them like him, but some vice versa. According to Baldwin’s words people percept him as a wonder, a person who greatly differs from others and his position doesn’t greatly changed in village’s community even in several years. The author even said: “But I remain as much a stranger today as I was the first day I arrived, and the children shout Neger! Neger! as I walk along the streets.” (Baldwin, 1955). These shouts were not full of anger and abhorrence, but they had a place and it was unpleasant to hear them from day to day. It explains us that the presence of unusual people or things will be always accept as an anomaly and that’s why we see exactly such situation in the story “Stranger in the Village”.
Answering the question about the roots of strange attitude to Baldwin in the village it is necessary to remember that African race were always considered to be the race of slaves and historical stereotypes forced people to be not as kind as they can. Slave society was a system that tried to accumulate huge profits and gain political power at the expense of blood, sweat and tears of millions of black Americans due to the influence of an appropriate ideological basis. Without no doubt, there were people who respected Baldwin and liked to talk to him, but there were also many people who were afraid of him and even hated him only due to his race. The big struggle for liberty of the Negro race made these people sensitive and even one word can deeply hurt them. It allows understand Baldwin’s thoughts about differences between white and black people and the way he reacted to being a stranger in the village. In accordance with this statement the author wrote: “I thought of white men arriving for the first time in an African village, strangers there, as I am a stranger here, and tried to imagine the astounded populace touching their hair and marveling at the color of their skin.” We can see how he was trying to be kind and pleasant and the result of his actions was also rather positive. We can state that many people looked at the stranger with some kind of astonishment, but exactly this astonishment poisoned his heart, because it meant that he was percept as other kind of people and “they regard me, quite rightly, not only as a stranger in the village but as a suspect latecomer, bearing no credentials, to everything they have-however unconsciously-inherited.” (Baldwin, 1955)
Basing on the story it is possible to come to the conclusion that every person who will enter other community will be treated in a strange way there, and Afro-American protagonist of the story “Stranger in the Village” was not an exception. This story provoked many thoughts in people’s minds, because the problem of Afro-Americans was very hot and disputable in those times. Thankfully, situation has changed nowadays and Afro-Americans can be proud of their roots, because their ancestors were brave enough and find liberty for their race.
Baldwin, James. Stranger in the Village. Notes of A Native Son. Beacon Press, 1955.