The Fire Next Time

Tori Uchen and Elise Ahearn

Main Arguments

  1. Racism: During the first few pages, Baldwin is advising his nephew on how to deal with the racist world. Throughout the novel, Baldwin incorporates how he believes that black Americans shouldn't let racism get them down and how they should show white Americans that they can take the high road. Also, Elijah Muhammad was introduced and described as being very racist due to the fact that he believed that white Americans were "the white devils."
  2. Religion: In the second section, Baldwin recounts his religious experiences as a young boy. He then contrasts that to his new view of Christianity as an adult. Elijah Muhammad felt that the reason that Baldwin's views have changed was because of him being too exposed to the teachings of white Americans.
  3. The "Negro Problem": The "Negro Problem" was an ongoing topic throughout the novel. It was the description of the ongoing state of racial tension between white and black Americans. The multiple essays in The Fire Next Time all connect back to the "Negro Problem," but all in different perspectives.

Media Connection- Doll Test


The doll test video shows that even children, not just adults, face racial discrimination and feel obligated to believe that white Americans are better than black Americans. In this video, children are asked a series of questions pertaining to which type of person (in this case, doll) fits the description of what the interviewers are asking. On the more better questions, the white doll is generally chosen, and for the bad questions, the black doll is chosen in response.

Doll Test

Rhetorical Devices

  1. Allusion: The section titled, "Down at the Cross" could be described as a religious allusion.
  2. Anaphora/Repetition: "I would try to teach them... I would try to make them know... I would try to make each child... I would teach him..."
  3. Parallelism: Baldwin parallels the concept of worth. He says that a black student can decide what "they are worth" while still saying that "very few standards in America are worth respect."