“He walked over to his bed and pulled his mother’s journal from under his pillow. He had taken to sleeping with it there after Jagua Rigogo had suggested that it was the perfect way to contact her spirit in his dreams. It hadn’t worked so far, but it had brought him comfort to have it within reach” (p. 46).
In this quote, Elvis is getting ready for work and grabbing books that he wishes to read on his travels. The mention of his mother’s journal is a crucial one; through mentioning that he sleeps with the journal close to him, it shows that Elvis still relies on his mother to “bring him comfort” (p.46) even after her death. The reason why Elvis relies on his mother’s journal is because he no longer has a parental figure that provides the love, care, and support that he needs in growing up.
Since his mother has passed away, Elvis’ father has become an alcoholic. Elvis’ father “had always turned to alcohol when life became hard, [but] back in their hometown there had been some dignity to his drinking” (47). Since the loss of Beatrice, Sunday’s drinking has gotten worse. Sunday has been gone for long periods of time drinking, he has remained jobless, and he has not been the father or the role model that Elvis needs to become a man. This has occurred because he is not over the death of his late wife. As a result, the roles are reversed. Elvis takes on the role of the provider of the house and Sunday takes on the role of the jobless child.
This connects to the mother’s journal because Elvis’ only positive family relationship was the relationship with his mother. Comfort explains to Elvis that his father “…want to kill himself with drink” (51) to be with Beatrice in the afterlife. Beatrice is the only thing that connects Elvis to his father and to his past. In reading her journal, Elvis can feel like he is connected to his family once more.
“Perhaps, as we say in America, I wanted to find myself. This is an interesting phrase, not current as far as I know in the language of any other people, which certainly does not mean what it says but betrays a nagging suspicion that something has been misplaced. I think now that if I had had any intimation that the self I was going to find would turn out to be only the same self from which I had spent so much time in flight, I would have stayed at home. But, again, I think I knew, at the very bottom of my heart, exactly what I was doing when I took the boat for France” (p. 21).
Through going abroad, David attempts to find reconciliation in who he is; David hopes to determine his sexuality without the pressure of his family. Hence, Baldwin chooses to write from a retrospective point of view to incorporate details that David—at the moment he chose to go to France—did not know. Through Baldwin writing in retrospect, David admits to “…think[ing] now that if [he] had had any intimation that the self [he] was going to find would turn out to be only the same self from which [he] had spent so much time in flight, [he] would have stayed at home” (p. 21). This admittance is crucial to the plot of the novel, as David focuses upon his fateful night with Joey throughout the first twenty pages or so; this was the night that David discovers that he enjoys the company of men as much, if not more, than women. Thus, the narrator is inserting details that allude to David going to France to discover his sexuality in an environment with no outside influence.
David attempts to set off on a voyage of self-discovery when he begins to sense that his dad “… thought [him and David] were alike [and David] did not want to think so” (p. 17). David fears being confined to what his father is; he fears being compared to his father because he knows that he is nothing like him. David enjoyed his sexual encounter with Joey; his father enjoys the company of women. David utilizes alcohol to stifle the pain caused by his inability to be like his father; David wants to be straight and fears that he is gay. Therefore, when David goes to France, David and his father “… got on quite well, really, for the vision [he] gave [his] father of [his] life was exactly the vision in which [he himself] most desperately needed to believe” (p. 20). The vision being that David is straight. Thus, the retrospective narrator comments that “… [he] think[s] [he] knew, at the very bottom of [his] heart, exactly what [he] was doing when [he] took the boat for France” (p. 21) because David knew that he would need to escape the pressure of conformity to be happy; David knew that, if he were to discover his true self, he would need to be free from judgment.
“If first love, as I have generally heard maintained, is the most beautiful thing that a heart can feel, whether earlier or later, we must praise our hero as triply happy because it was granted to him to enjoy the bliss of these unique moments in its whole range” — Wilhelm Meister
This is a beautiful passage from Wilhelm Meister that accurately depicts the passion associated with young love. Passion directly correlates with youth and with the modern society because people are desperately seeking their passions in life, be it romantically or otherwise. Life is all about finding one’s passion, and it is interesting that this passage depicts Wilhelm as a character who has a passionate romance with a woman that he meets when he is out at the theatre–another passion of his. In this sense, the author seems to be combining the two passions to show the similarities between two extremes–love and leisure. It shows that the youth enjoy passion in all that they do and hope to achieve and, ironically, it is later shown in the reading that Wilhelm is being forced to join the work force and give up his passions. This pessimistic view seems to be the view that many youth have these days.