Giovanni's Room | Study Guide

James Baldwin

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Course Hero. "Giovanni's Room Study Guide." November 1, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2022.


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Giovanni's Room | Plot Summary

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Part 1

David is alone at a rented house in the South of France. He has been sharing the house with Hella, his ex-fiancée, now on her way back to the United States. His ex-lover, Giovanni, is in prison, awaiting execution by guillotine, scheduled for the next morning. David ruminates over the events that got him here: his Brooklyn childhood, his macho father, his first male lover (his high school friend Joey), and the night he met Giovanni.

After two years in Paris, where he went to "find himself" after a stint in the army, David is finally out of money. His father, who wants David to come home and settle down with a nice girl, won't send him any more money. On the same day that David is evicted from his apartment, he goes out for drinks with Jacques, an older, wealthy gay man he doesn't really like but from whom he borrows money. Giovanni is the new bartender at Guillaume's bar, where Jacques and David go. Jacques immediately develops a crush on Giovanni, but Giovanni prefers David, who insists unconvincingly to all who will listen that he is straight. After a predawn breakfast with Jacques, Giovanni, and Guillaume, David goes home with Giovanni.

Part 2

David and Giovanni are inseparable after that first night. They share the tiny maid's room that Giovanni calls home. Located in a building on the outskirts of the city, the room is messy, dirty, and filled with the remnants of Giovanni's previous life. Very much involved with Giovanni, David waits a full month before telling him about Hella, David's girlfriend who has been traveling in Spain. Giovanni isn't too concerned, not seeing any problem with having more than one romantic involvement at the same time. But then he loses his job. He makes David—who has just learned that Hella has accepted his marriage proposal and will return to Paris soon—promise never to leave him. Feeling oppressed by the room and the relationship and wanting to get out, David keeps the news about Hella to himself.

David is delighted by Hella's return and leaves Giovanni's room without a word. He and Hella spend her first three days and nights back in the city together, making love and planning their future. On the third day, they run into Jacques and Giovanni at a bookstore. Giovanni is a wreck. He had no idea where David was or what he was doing, and he had no one but Jacques to comfort him. David and Giovanni, who loves David, have one final confrontation the next night, during which Giovanni claims that David will never truly love anyone.

That is the last time David speaks to Giovanni. David sees him around town, first with Jacques and then with the effeminate street boys, and then he eventually hears that Giovanni is getting his old job back. A week later, Guillaume is murdered. The police look for and capture Giovanni, who confesses to committing the crime. This news only hastens the demise of David and Hella's relationship. Even though they have relocated to the South of France, David can't get Giovanni out of his mind and is now repulsed by Hella. One night, after not knowing where he has gone, she finds him in a gay bar with a sailor. David and Hella break up, and she leaves for the United States the next day. A week later, on the day of Giovanni's execution, David leaves too, intending to take the train back to Paris.

Giovanni's Room Plot Diagram

Falling ActionRising ActionResolutionClimax123456789101112Introduction


1 His mother having died, David is raised by his father.

Rising Action

2 David is ashamed about sleeping with Joey.

3 In Paris, David meets Hella and proposes to her.

4 David begins a relationship with Giovanni.

5 When Hella returns to Paris, David leaves Giovanni.

6 David and Hella run into Jacques and Giovanni.

7 Guillaume cons Giovanni, who then strangles him.

8 Hella and David rent a house in the South of France.


9 Hella catches David with a sailor in a gay bar.

Falling Action

10 David imagines Giovanni's execution.

11 Hella breaks the engagement and leaves.


12 David too leaves the rental house.

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