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4/14 – Equal in Paris – James Baldwin

In “Equal in Paris”, James Baldwin is trying to show how people are not treated equal and don’t have the same opportunities as others.  He tries to portray this in the text by talking about his own experiences.  Baldwin describes how difficult it is to get in touch with the language and culture of the French.  Even though he came to Paris to start a new life, a life he thought would be more prosperous than what he had previously in the United States, he was let down by the fact that he will never become a native Frenchman.  As long as he stays in Paris, he will never be treated as a native Frenchman, but as a person who is from America that is living in Paris.

Baldwin also explains at the end of his short essay:

…In some deep, black, stony, and liberating way, my life, in my own eyes, began during that first year in Paris, when it was borne in on me that this laughter is universal and never can be stilled.

This laughter he refers to is the laughter of the people who feel that they are an exception to pain and sorrow felt in life.  Baldwin describes that some people feel, especially back in his native country, that they have “a safe remove from all the wretched.”  When analyzing this text, it is apparent that Baldwin fled to Paris to escape this laughter, but what he found out was disappointing.  He came to the conclusion that people everywhere feel the same remove from the pain in life.  This is not just something felt by people in the United States, but by people everywhere.  Baldwin thought people would be more accepting and tolerant of the outcomes that life sometimes brings, but he was sadly disappointed with what he discovered living in Paris for one year.  There is a distinct connection between the people in Paris that Baldwin has encountered and the people in the United States that he knows all too well.  Both parties feel they are above life’s challenges and can judge people however they want to, going through life carelessly and taking the privilege of freedom for granted.


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