The Beale Street of the title refers to the street where Tish and Fonny live. Tish knows that people aren’t always telling the truth, and this the reason why Fonny is accused of rape of a women, which he didn’t commit. If the street could talk, Fonny wouldn’t have to go to jail, because it would tell what really had happen.
James Baldwin was born in New York in 1928. In 1942 he completed high school. After that he had various jobs. In 1948 he received a literary fellowship, which gave him the possibility to travel to Europe. There he spent most of his time in France. His first novel was Go tell it on the Mountain (1953), an autobiographical novel. He returned to America in 1957. Here he became involved in the civil rights groups. He is associated with the main-leaders of the Black Liberation and Black Panther groups. Influential novels he wrote are:
Giovanni’s Room (1956), Another Country (1962), Tell me how long the train has been gone (1968), If Beale Street could talk (1974) and Just above my head (1979). His play Blues for Mister Charlie is performed on Broadway. His collection of essays, especially The fire next time (1963) and No name in the street (1972) became important for the human rights of Negroes.
James Baldwin died in France in 1987. He belongs to the group of the best Negro novelists after World War Two. He wanted to show the differences in the treatment of blacks and white people and that is wasn’t right.
The literary period:
The Twentieth century – second part (1945 to now).
The novel is a love story and also a social concerning one.
Part one (the biggest part, 188 pages): Troubled about my soul
Tish and Fonny both live in the same street in Harlem, an area of New York populated mostly by Negroes. They have been friends since they were young. Fonny’s mother is overly religious and belongs to a fanatical Christian church. Fonny doesn’t get much attention from her. Fonny’s sisters aren’t nice either. His father Frank is very good to him, but he becomes an alcoholic. Tish’s parents are very loving. They do everything they can for Tish and Fonny.
Tish and Fonny fall in love. In the neighbourhood they are known as Romeo and Juliet. They become engaged to be married. Tish’s parents and Fonny’s dad are happy, but Fonny’s mother thinks the marriage will be a suitable punishment for Fonny, because she thinks Tish is not good enough for him. Fonny’s sisters aren’t happy with the idea either.
Fonny lives in Harlem and makes sculptures, and to earn some extra money he works as a cook. Fonny and Tish move into an appartment, which will be too small when they get married, so they go looking for a somewhere bigger. This is very difficult, because there is a lot of predudice against Negroes. They meet an old (also Negro) friend, who says that he has been in prison for two years for something he didn’t do.
Eventually they find the perfect apartment. While they areshopping, an Italian man harasses Tish, and Fonny beats him up. The police officer Mr. Bell accuses Fonny of causing the trouble. Mr Bell is a racist and a liar. A lady in the shop says the Italian started the fight, so that Mr Bell can’t arrest Fonny, and he becomes resentful.
Later a Puerto Rican woman, Mrs Rogers, is raped. Mr Bell asks her to pick out the offender from a line of people, amongst whom Fonny is the only black man, and since a black man committed the crime, the woman is convinced that Fonny is the rapist, but she is mistaken. Fonny even has an alibi, and the lawyer tries to prove his innocence, but without success.
Tish finds out she is pregnant. Fonny is very happy and wants to be out of jail for the baby’s birth. Tish, her parents and Fonny’s father work very hard to get him released. They take extra jobs and try everything they can to earn extra money to pay the lawyer.
Mrs Rogers goes to Puerto Rico. She could free Fonny is she would change her testimony. Tish’s mother goes to Puerto Rico to see Mrs Rogers, but unfortunately she doesn’t want to change her testimony, because she doesn’t want to be reminded of the rape and she is confused.
Part two ( 22 pages): Zion
Fonny is released on bail on the end after a whole lot of hard work to get the money together. The money is collected after a lot of effort. The same day Fonny’s father is found dead in his car. He has committed suicide after losing his job because he stole goods to sell for money to pay the lawyer and the bail. At the end of the story, Tish’s baby is about to be born, but it is still not known whether or not they will win the trial and that Fonny is to be proven innocent.
The story has many flashbacks. It tells in an un-chronological way about Tish and Fonny’s childhood and about events in the present. The time in which the story is situated is for about 6 months because in the beginning Tish was 3 months pregnant.
The story is set in Harlem, New York.
Characters and relationships:
Tish is a 19-year-old Negro girl, and she tells the story. Her real name is Clementine Rivers. She lives in Harlem, New York and works in the perfume department of a store. She is in love with Fonny and is having his baby.
Fonny is a 22-years old. His real name is Alonzo Hunt. He is very kind, and is deeply in love with Tish.
I think that story could have been happened for reel. In the past there were a lot of trouble with the rights of the coloured people (and still are, but less). You can see that the black people are making the same mistake as witch they accuse the white people of; from the bad behaviour of some people they’ll say that all those people are bad and that’s also a racial prejudice.
The novel let us see the prejudice which exists against coloured people in Amerika.
The following poem is written on the title page:
What you going to name
That pretty little baby.
Tish is the story-teller of the book. The story is told in her own words. There is a lot of slang used.
The book is dedicated to Yoran.
Tish tells the story in the first person. She is involved in the story. However, sometimes we can go along with other people in the third person to fill up the gaps.
The book consists of two parts. The first part “Troubled about my soul” is the longest part and fills in the background. The second part “Zion” talks about the things Tish and Fonny would like to have done in their lives and is only in the present time.
Own opinion on the book:
The story all over is very good and touching. I see it as a disadvantage that there’s a lot of slang being used. What I don’t like is, from both the black and white sides, is the prejudiced opinion about each other but it is a fact, however. You can still see that the problem still exists in the present-day, particular in America so the problem is still present.
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