What Are the Themes of the Short Story “Going to Meet the Man”?

The short tale “Going to Meet the Man,” written by James Baldwin, explores a number of important topics, including racism and justice, as well as the connections that may be made between sex, violence, and power. Baldwin examines the ways in which racism is taught and reproduced, as well as the long-term repercussions of violent violence on a character’s sense of morality and justice, via the internal thoughts of an impotent white deputy in the divided South. The story takes place in the 1930s.

Jesse, a corrupt Southern deputy who takes great pleasure in aggressively policing the black community, is the protagonist of “Going to Meet the Man,” which follows his thoughts and recollections. The story starts with Jesse in bed, unable to perform sexually and unable to fall or stay asleep for any length of time. Baldwin delves into his musings about his career, the town he lives in, and the things he wants. Eventually, he recalls being a youngster when he saw a black guy being brutally executed and dismembered, and he discovers that reliving the incident sexually excites him. He was a toddler at the time of the event.

The narrative does this by tracking the character’s thoughts all the way back to the initial moment of violence and connecting it to his sexuality. This helps to flesh out some of the story’s most important themes and issues. Seeing the execution influences his ideas about the black community, morality and justice, as well as his impotence, which is metaphorically linked to emerging freedoms for black Southerners. The elation the character takes in remembering violence gives him a sense of power, while seeing the execution influences his ideas about remembering violence gives him a sense of power.