The Fire Next Time

Analysis for AP English 3 by Sarah Gusewelle

Main Arguments

1) Race: Baldwin's text discusses how his point of view concerning racial issues in America applies to what can be done as well as how his point differs from other activists of the time. The author takes a stance against combating fire with fire as he claims minister Elijah Muhammad was doing as part of the civil rights movement, and rather promotes the concept of treating others the way you want to be treated. As evidence, Baldwin explains throughout that not all white people are racist, yet discriminating against those who are or even the white race as a whole is taking a step backwards from equality and a step towards more segregation.

2) Religion: Baldwin does not believe the African American race should believe in the Muslim faith simply due to racial issues, yet he also acknowledges major issues with the institution of Christianity. Baldwin identifies himself as a member of the Christian religion early on, but discusses the issues he has with the church's corruption. The issue therefore is largely an issue of race, as Baldwin connects leaders of Islam in the United States as dismissing Christianity as a religion only for whites who oppress others. Thus, to combat racism, one must have a balance of religion and actual political activity to accomplish change in the eyes of Baldwin.

3) Society/Politics: To address the topic of inequality among many spectrums (but mostly discrimination of African Americans) Baldwin explains the historical concepts behind issues currently faced when he wrote the text. With this idea, he motivates his audience to start a Revolution that would in effect end this, saying that people are the ultimate reasons we are in such a horrible state of affairs between races, but policy changes are the only effective way to bring true change.

Media Connection

The video at the bottom of the flyer is a clip from the television show "Real Time with Bill Maher". The panel discusses racism as it applies to the United States today, which relates to James Baldwin's discussion of the systematic issue of racism. Furthermore, Baldwin believes racism cannot be eliminated until changes in politics are made, which is the stance of the discussion in the video.

The Fire Next Time was written by James Baldwin in 1962. This is a nonfiction text.

Rhetorical Devices

1) Parallelism: On page 54-55, Baldwin states, "You must consider what happens to this citizen," referring to an African American man returning home from war, "after all he has endured, when he returns- home: search, in his shoes for a job, for a place to live; see, with his eyes, the sign saying 'White' and 'Colored,' and especially the signs that say 'White Ladies' and Colored Women'; look into the eyes of his son; listen with his ears, to political speeches, North and South; imagine yourself being told to 'wait'." This one-sentence is broken apart with a similar structure repeatedly in order to build up a sense of empathy for the man Baldwin describes. Through this, the author accomplishes making readers aware of the brutal situation he describes, and thus readers understand his purpose for writing the text overall.

2) Metaphor: On page 43, Baldwin writes, “It will be great for America, incidentally, when we begin to eat bread again, instead of the blasphemous and tasteless foam rubber that we have substituted for it.” The bread is a symbol for a whole-hearted substance of true religion rather than faith only for the purpose of not going to Hell. In other words, Baldwin exemplifies his want for society to remember God not only for their benefit, but to look for hope in a time when it seems there is little.

3) Tone: On page 91, Baldwin summarizes his message in a call-to-action, claiming, "we are living in an age of revolution, whether we will or no and that America is the only Western nation with both the power and, as I hope to suggest, the experience that may help to make these revolutions real and minimize the human damage." With a Motivational tone, Baldwin sounds like a preacher as he describes what revolution of politics must take place in America for change to occur in a successful manner. Therefore, this tone reveals his hope for America while acknowledging how much effort it will take to get America to the state it should be for all of its citizens.

Real Time with Bill Maher: A System of Racism (HBO)