“A Stranger in the Village” by Baldwin

“Stranger in the Village” by James Baldwin is about the author’s experience in a small village situated in Switzerland. Baldwin writes that he is black and because of his race he villagers find him different and, thus, fascinating. He says that villagers have never seen a black man: “…from all available evidence no black man had ever set foot”.

Therefore, they are curious about his color of a skin and it is interesting for them to find out whether black man can ever rub off. Baldwin admits that small children are afraid of him because a black man for them was something similar to devil. Actually, Baldwin is treated as an exotic rarity, though Baldwin thinks that the difference between whites and blacks doesn’t exist in American society. He doesn’t want to be regarded as rarity; instead he wants to be treated equally as human being.

The author often refers to emotions when writing about conflicts which appear in the Swiss village. In particular, these emotions are outrage and astonishment.
In such a way, the author in his essay contrasts his experience of being a black man offering an insightful critique of the history of American race relations: “What one’s imagination makes of other people is dictated, of course, by the laws of one’s own personality and it is one of the ironies of black-white relations that, by means of what the white man imagines the black man to be, the black man is enabled to know who the white man is”.
The author says that an air of racism will be always present in society, because he was called “le sale negre” behind his back. Furthermore, he was accused of stealing wood. Because of such treatment, Baldwin feels undeniable rage toward the villagers.
Misconception of his complexion leads to misconception of his human credibility and results in perceiving as a “living wonder”.  Despite the fact that people try to eliminate racism in American society, racial discrimination is still alive in smaller towns and villages. He concludes that no one enjoys being considered an alien.

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New York University
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