➳ [Reading] ➶ Blues for Mister Charlie By James Baldwin ➩ – Saudionline.co.uk


Blues for Mister Charlie quotes Blues for Mister Charlie, litcharts Blues for Mister Charlie, symbolism Blues for Mister Charlie, summary shmoop Blues for Mister Charlie, Blues for Mister Charlie 23aab6ec In A Small Southern Town, A White Man Murders A Black Man, Then Throws His Body In The Weeds With This Act Of Violence Which Is Loosely Based On The Notorious Killing Of Emmett Till James Baldwin Launches An Unsparing And At Times Agonizing Probe Of The Wounds Of Race For Where Once A White Storekeeper Could Have Shot A Boy Like Richard Henry With Impunity, Times Have Changed And Centuries Of Brutality And Fear, Patronage And Contempt, Are About To Erupt In A Moment Of Truth As Devastating As A Shotgun BlastIn His Award Winning Play, Baldwin Turns A Murder And Its Aftermath Into An Inquest In Which Even The Most Well Intentioned Whites Are Implicated And In Which Even A Killer Receives His Share Of Compassion


10 thoughts on “Blues for Mister Charlie

  1. says:

    Blues for Mister Charlie 1964 is James Baldwin s first play It is very distantly based on the case of Emmett Till a 14 year old African American who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955, after a white woman said she was offended by him in her family s grocery store Despite confessing to the murder, the two white men were acquitted And so Baldwin s play deals with the aftermath of the brutal murder of the young black man Richard by the white townsman Lyle.The play then, for me, takes place in Plaguetown, U.S.A., now The plague is race, the plague is our concept of Christianity and this raging plague has the power to destroy every human relationship Baldwin about Mister Charlie The play functions as a mirror to its time and is, at heart, a segregated play The aisle functions as the division between Whitetown and Blacktown The action among the blacks takes place on one side of the stage, the action among the whites on the opposite side of the stage Only in the flashbacks and the trial at the end, do whites and blacks interact with one another apart from the character Parnell who represents the white moderate and who seeks out the conversation with the black families PARNELL Who s Mister Charlie MERIDIAN You re Mister Charlie All white men are Mister Charlie The title of the play refers to the pejorative expression used within the African American community to refer to an imperious white man Mister Charlie The expression suggests that whites are generic or interchangeable The bitterness toward the collective whiteness can be felt throughout the entire play RICHARD I m going to treat every one of them as though they were responsible for all the crimes that ever happened in the history of the world oh, yes They re responsible for all the misery I ve ever seen, and that s good enough for me Since whites were Baldwin s target audience since cultural spaces such as the theatre and broadway were dominated by whites , Baldwin faced a difficult task In order to reach his audience, he needed to feed into their stereotypes and their perception of black people without, however, excusing that behaviour Or else, his message would lapse Baldwin had to walk a fine line, and whilst I appreciate what he was trying to do with the play, many of his literary choices rubbed me the wrong way The thing that annoyed me the most about the play is that Baldwin wanted to force empathy for the character Parnell Meridian s white friend who promised to bring the truth to light i.e Help with the persecution of Lyle The friend who let Meridian s family down at court by defending the murderer After the trial, Parnell says to Lyle I really don t know if what I did to Meridian was as awful as what I did to you , suggesting that Lyle is suffering since he carries hatred in his heart I understand where Baldwin was trying to go with that statement but I JUST HATE EVERY SINGLE THING ABOUT IT Meridian just lost his son to a brutal race crime He didn t get justice as the murderer was acquitted and Lyle actually spit into his face by saying that he doesn t regret anything , and now Baldwin is telling me that Lyle s pain is worse I can t deal with all of this turn the other cheek type of bullshit and the fact that black people are expected to be the bigger person and move on Their suffering is taken for granted.Parnell then has the audacity to say that he only hopes that all of us will suffer past this agony and horror BESH WHAT You were not the one who just lost a beloved family member And then, OF COURSE, the black characters forgive Parnell because that s what black people do Can you feel my bitterness And it s even hinted that we should have pity for Parnell now PARNELL Can I join you on the march, Juanita Can I walk with you JUANITA Well, we can go in the same direction, Parnell Come Don t look like that Let s go on on Again, I understand what Baldwin was trying to do and that he had to appeal to his white target audience but I don t appreciate shit like that He never explicitly calls out the stereotypical perception that the white characters had of the black ones Darkies are always singing and They got one interest And it s just below the belly button are only a few examples I do unterstand why Baldwin chose to just tell it how it is However, he then should have gotten his black characters screen time in order to show the falsity of those stereotypes and challenge them Don t get me wrong, overall, he did a good job at making his black characters multidimensional and at showing their struggles and beliefs MERIDIAN If you re a black man, with a black son, you have to forget all about white people and concentrate on trying to save your child.MOTHER HENRY No white man never called my husband Mister, neither, not as long as he lived Ain t no white man never called me Mrs Henry before today I had to get a grandson killed for that.MERIDIAN I am a man A man I tried to help my son become a man But manhood is a dangerous pursuit, here However, his focus on the whitetown and the fact that the white characters got the vast majority of the speech parts and thus visibility and exposure lessened my enjoyment of the play LILLIAN They had their ways, we had ours, and everything went along the way God intended However, Baldwin uses this play as a vehicle to address his issues with Christianity, a religion historically used to justify the enslavement of Africans And I absolutely loved it He argues that Christianity is a type of plague that has the power to destroy every human relationship Through his character Lorenzo, he denounces it for its ability to be used to preach passivity while endorsing violence Lorenzo articulates the lack of empathy that Christianity has for the Black community, calling it the white God who ignores others suffering at the hands of the irrational He accuses the reverend of praying to a god that only cares for those who are white and asserts that it is this god who is responsible for the destruction of Black lives I found this message very powerful and I am very grateful that Baldwin was bold enough to include it in his play Up to this day, the American society is a very religious one that doesn t handle critiques of Christianity too well In general, the play was very realistic in its depiction of its characters More often than not the white moderate pulls out the class card and says that it basically trumps the race card PARNELL Well, even that s not true He doesn t think they re not human after all, I know him, he s hot tempered and he s far from being the brightest man in the world but he s not mean, he s not cruel He s a poor white man The poor whites have been just as victimized in this part of the world as the blacks have ever been Or the argument that someone can t be racist because they re your friend PARNELL He s not a wicked man I know he s not, I ve known him almost all his life The face he turns to you, Meridian, isn t the face he turns to me These are arguments that were prevalent back in the day and are still used today It s hella frustrating, but I highly appreciate that Baldwin just showed it how it was is The main criticism of the play was that it was too polarized It ended up alienating the audiences, at least the white audience, because they felt they were being preached to This is just so damn frustrating to me because I thought that Baldwin was actually really nice and generous towards his white characters and tried to focus on Lyle s struggle opposed to Richard s and so it s mind boggling to me that even this wasn t enough for white audiences back in the day Overall, I found it fascinating how Blues for Mister Charlie reflected its time in such a brilliant manner I highly enjoyed the descriptions of Meridian s nonviolence training and that Balwin gave room to discuss whether this line of action was actually the smartest one In regards to the whole Malcolm versus MLK spiel, I felt that Richard functioned as the personification of Malcolm I felt Malcolm s anger in Richard and their backgrounds were also very similar Richard left his hometown early and went to the North, made a lot of money by slaving a word that both used for working , became a dope addict and fucked around with white women to get money So basically Malcolm s early life in a nutshell RICHARD I take their money and they love it Anyway, they ain t got nothing else to do with it Every one of them s got some piss assed, faggoty white boy on a string somewhere They go home and marry him, dig, when they can t make it with me no but when they want some loving, funky, down home, bring it on here and put it on the table style When Baldwin said of Richard He d paid his dues He was just trying to live And he almost made it , I honestly got chills because it reminded me so much of his assessment of Malcolm, who died way before his time I also appreciated that he called out the rampant sexism within black communities Everybody knows we strong on loving Except when it comes to our women and I was also very grateful that Baldwin took a stand on the whole King Kong narrative that persists up until this day As soon as a white woman says that she was hurt by the big bad black man, no one will doubt her When Jo Lyle s wife lies at court and says that Richard tried to sexually assault her, it was clear what the final verdict would be Richard guilty, Lyle set free Blacktown after Parnell s betrayal What do you think of our friend now He didn t do it to us rough and hard No, he was real gentle I hardly felt a thing Did you You can t never go against the word of a white lady, man, not even if you re white Can t be done.It is almost haunting how this also foreshadowed the end of the Emmett Till case as the white lady who claimed that Emmett whistled at her at the story, admitted on her death bed that she lied about the whole situation Yet again, black lives are being sacrificed to white lies I hope she s rotting in hell Blues for Mister Charlie is a very thought provoking play and I loved analyzing it James Baldwin s work is always very rich and provides a great foundation for discussion s Even though I don t agree with everything he stood for and everything he propagated, I appreciate the man so much and would recommend his work to everyone


  2. says:

    Baldwin wrote this play in response to the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers Baldwin had traveled with Evers to the backwoods of Mississippi as the latter investigated the death of a black man by a white storekeeper a scary time, place and circumstances for both men due to the color of their skin Earlier Baldwin had resisted the idea of his writing a play, but the personal impact of Evers death compelled him to do so.The play reads as if it would be a solid enough play to see, perhaps a bit too wordy but these are Baldwin s words so they re not a chore to read I got a great sense of the stage sets through the dialogue In the last act, the words of the separate white and black Greek choruses come through as if spoken by communities of individuals I could hear their cries.I didn t know of this work before finding it in a used bookstore among classic school texts It would make a great pairing with John Lewis March trilogy portrayals of what life was like at the dawning of the Civil Rights era of what has changed since then and of what has not.


  3. says:

    I am trying to work my way through Baldwin s entire canon This is solid writing But I think my favorite writing is in his introduction to the work I understand what Baldwin is trying to do here He wants to make a one dimensional character three dimensional We get the story of the death of an African American male in the south during the 1960 s Racism is rampant and you are privy to conversations, albeit imagined, between the white southerners that attempts to give credence to their myopic view of the world This is not an easy read There are many parts that made me cringe, but I know that Baldwin wants the reader to flinch at the ugly reality of racism As I read, I feel the inequities that Baldwin discusses still exist I also think that the glimpse into Lyle s life as a white man in the South is an attempt to show a man that is a result of his surroundings But, that seems too easy The same can be said for the man that is murdered, Richard s life There seems to be stereotypes, but, I have to wonder if they are stereotypes given the date of publication Baldwin is writing what he sees And remember that he left America for a few years because of the rampant racism that existed So, this is what he knows All in all, a solid piece of writing that I am glad I read.


  4. says:

    A play inspired by the story of Emmett Till, I knew this would be a rough read but underestimated by just how much For majority of the play, Baldwin had me convinced that the story wouldn t play out the way Till s story did but in the end, it shook me completely to realize just how indifferent the world really is.In his introduction, Baldwin tells us The plague is race, the plague is our concept of Christianity and this raging plague has the power to destroy every human relationship. The play opens with the death of Richard Henry, a Southern born, African American man, the son of Reverend Henry, who had just returned from the North with a colorful past of his own At first, the list of characters is overwhelming but Baldwin does an excellent job of setting the characters apart fairly early on Each character is easily established with individual personalities and despite the numerous characters, it is incredibly easy to keep track of everyone without getting lost.Parnell and Meridian were probably my favorite characters of this play Parnell, a white journalist, is trying to be fair and just but is torn between the white and black town He wants to believe that Lyle has not killed the black minister s son and yet, he has a history He clearly fights for equality then he does for justice, even though he seems to say he wants justice as it is rightly served Justice requires reparations, equality requires letting go of centuries worth of oppression a hard thing to ask of from any race You cannot have equality without serving justice where it is due first One cannot expect a black man woman to forget the treatment of their ancestors until whites have acknowledge the centuries worth of torture, rape, murder, suppression, and absolute and utter humiliation their ancestors have caused.Meridian, a black Christian minister, is another character that is torn between his faith and the reality By the end of the play, he sees the light which has blinded him for long My favorite passages comes from his character I m a Christian I ve been a Christian all my life, like my Mama and Daddy before me and like their Mama and Daddy before them Of course, if you go back far enough, you get to a point before Christ, if you see what I mean, B.C and at that point, I ve been thinking, black people weren t raised to turn the other cheek, and in the hope of heaven No, then they didn t have to take low Before Christ They walked around just as good as anybody else, and when they died, they didn t go to heaven, they went to join their ancestors My son s dead, but he s not gone to join his ancestors He was a sinner, so he must have gone to hell if we re going to believe what the Bible says Is that such an improvement, such a mighty advance over B.C I ve been thinking, I ve had to think would I have been such a Christian if I hadn t been born black Maybe I had to become a Christian in order to have any dignity at all Since I wasn t a man in men s eyes, then I could be a man in the eyes of God But that didn t protect my wife She s dead, too soon, we don t really know how That didn t protect my son he s dead, we know how too well That hasn t changed this town this town, where you couldn t find a white Christian at high noon on Sunday The eyes of God maybe those eyes are blind I never let myself think of that before. Brilliant and the most potent description of African American Christianity I have ever read Christianity has always attempted to be the savior of people but it has brought misery to the black population of America than anything else It is also clear to establish that these are words from Baldwin s own mouth.Over fifty years later and not a damn thing has changed look up Tamir Rice or Michael Brown or numerous other cases if you somehow live in a hole and have no idea what I m talking about.I am still not sure of the connections between Juanita and Parnell, Juanita and Meridian, Juanita and Richard, and Juanita and Pete It seems like Baldwin wanted to do something important with Juanita s character but he might have been confused as to what But still, overall, this was an intense and thoroughly satisfying play.


  5. says:

    Malik CooperEnglish Period 3Banned Books EssayBooks that are banned from schools are books that are looked at by parents that complain about things that some of them have probably did They are just too afraid to sit down with the child and talk to them about the different things in the world So the child goes and gets books to read and learn on their own If all the books get banned and we have parents afraid to sit down and talk about sex, drugs, and violence how will we learn You can experience sex, drugs, and violence but all three can kill you Lessons can be learned from the banned books but parents don t want their children exposed to the content of these supposedly banned books All the content in the banned books can be learned from Maybe instead of banning the books maybe a reasonable age limit could be put on the books I personally think the after the fifth grade you should be able to read any book you want no matter what the content of the book If the world can t be banned then books shouldn t be banned.Most of the banned books taught us something that a lot of parents are afraid to talk about with their children about A lot of the banned books have to deal with situations or experiences people go through everyday With most of these banned books children can learn from the experiences like the book Go Ask Alice That book could teach many young people about what can happen to your life if those same choices as Alice are made, but Alice mistakes could have all been avoided and reading this book can teach any how they could early before they are faced with these situations Another book banned that should have not been was And still I Rise A book not based on sexual or violent content but it was in favor of women s rights and black people wrote it A lot of books banned had sex, violence, drugs, and too much religion in the book Sometimes people thought the book questioned the existence of God or they didn t want a community to gain confidence because of that book Content in all banned books must be accepted because whatever is in these books is nothing new to the world, so everything that happens in those books happens in the world we live in today These books shouldn t be banned because it teaches young people that the world is hard place and it isn t paradise Go Ask Alice was a true story with true events that happened to that girl that s her fault and her decision but it doesn t have to be anyone else s People make choices that will decide their future so the people who want books banned have to suck it up and live with the fact they can t keep their little baby unexposed from this crazy world If books with sex, drugs, and violence are banned then why don t people fight to ban the world No one seems to care about what happens to the world and the people of the world but they take a lot of time just to have these books banned.Instead of banning the books maybe a reasonable age limit should be put on the books in school if that s comfortable for parents Elementary school won t really matter because they don t really understand, those little kids think they do but they don t Middle school is when I think any young male or female should be able to read whatever they want to read because they are growing and they need to know what goes on in the world and now is the time After that schools should be able to put whatever they want in schools because 9th grade it s time to grow up.Books shouldn t be banned It would make no sense to ban books when it all goes on in our world The parents that complain the most are the ones that probably made some of those mistakes in their past Books shouldn t be banned they just should have a solution to all of their complaints so they won t have anything to complain The school district of Philadelphia needs to allow all high schools to read any books the English teacher wants them to read


  6. says:

    Not my favorite book of Baldwins , but I appreciate his short, but powerful play, Blues for Mister Charlie The dialoge in the book is at times rigid, cliche, and predictable Unlike many of his novels, Baldwin seems to struggle with the confines of the artform, the play s lack of space or room to fully develop his characters This is most harmful, in my opinion, with the character Richard, who comes off as a stock character with elements borrowed from Baldwin s Rufus of Another Country, Richard of Go Tell it On the Mountain, and Sonny of Sonny s Blues I think Baldwin does a grave disservice to Richard, and his, at times, legitimate rage has towards whites During many scenes throughout the play, Richard is portrayed as being a tragic figure, not only eaten up by his former drug addiction, but also eaten up by his own rage and hatred of white people I don t like how Richard comes off as being an angry black man whose anger is unthought, unwarranted, and misdirected I think that Baldwin attempted to created sub plots that only seemed to muddle the story, rather than add nuance to the play s storyline, i.e., Juanita s love interests in Parnell and also, Meridian s love for Juanita Also, I wish Baldwin could have found a way to develop Jo s character She seemed like one of the interesting within the play, especially in her lack of knowledge of her husband s past philandering, and his first time murdering a black man I do find value in Baldwin s attempting to get into the mind of a white supremacist and murderer Overall, like I said before, this is not my favorite Baldwin piece, but I can appreciate his effort in shining light on the vile lynching and intimidation of black people, and the complete absence of justice for them.


  7. says:

    A punch in the chest a raw look at race and justice in the 1960s inspired by the murder of Emmett Till in 1955, Blues for Mister Charlie is the story of a white man who is acquitted of a black man s murder, and the issues it causes every one around him to confront Though I love Uncle Jimmy s essays and fiction much better, this is still a must read of his canon Can t wait to see this piece performed.


  8. says:

    i am not yet sure what makes a play great, or a revelation i haven t read enough but what i do know and can lean on with all the weight of my heart, is when a work pulls me up, and out, and all about which is what this play did i finished it in tears, as i knew i was baldwin, you are my saving grace.


  9. says:

    Just waiting for Barry Jenkins to turn this into a movie.


  10. says:

    Written in honor of the activist Medgar Evers and young Emmett Till, James Baldwin crafted a great play that still resonates to this day with Blues for Mister Charlie Taking place in a southern U.S town, the stage of the play is split into Whitetown and Blacktown, where the audience can witness different perspectives and reactions from characters in response to the murder of young, black Richard who has just returned home from the North His murder is cruel, and watching how an entire community gets gaslight and belittled for even seeking justice is heart wrenching What is so great about this play is that Baldwin s protagonists are not pure martyrs, but real and complex characters Parnell, the sympathetic white man who pushes for a trial against Lyel and longs to be just, still struggles with giving up his privilege as a white man Richard s family and friends lie about Richard having owned a gun before the jury Mind you, this gun played no role in the actual murder, but that and Richard s time in the North are key pieces of evidence in painting Richard as a dangerous man The ensuing court case is intense Lyel, the murderer, is an undeniably contemptible individual, who forces his wife Jo to lie about Richard attempting to rape her She also gives her husband a false alibi that contradicts her previous testimony Ultimately, in a court what should matter are the material facts and witnesses related to a crime Instead the court dissolves into a trial on the victim s character, even black character in general Rather than cross examining obvious inconsistencies in Lyel s story, the prosecutor with support from the judge asks inherently prejudicial questions that belittle Richard, and the people who hope to defend his good name The prosecution harps on Richard s past of substance abuse and time spent in the North with white women moot arguments that have nothing to do with the facts This play was published in 1964, though I find it holds great relevance in 2018 Even today, whenever you see a young black man who has been killed on the news, almost immediately his character is put on trial The victim is persecuted with greater severity than the suspected murderer The reaction is still too eerily similar With that in mind, I would absolutely recommend this play It s tough content that provides important food for thought.


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