Giovanni's Room | Study Guide

James Baldwin

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Giovanni's Room | Symbols


Giovanni's Room

Giovanni lives in a small room on the outskirts of Paris. Formerly a maid's room, it can barely hold two people, let alone the detritus of Giovanni's old life. With nowhere else to stay, David moves in just hours after they meet. At first, the small room seems somewhat romantic. It acts as a bubble, protecting Giovanni and David's new relationship from the outside world. They can say and do whatever they want without worrying about eavesdroppers or judgmental looks. The room makes everyday life seem different, as if it were occurring underwater. But that delicious feeling of submersion soon becomes oppressive. The longer David lives there, the more the room becomes like a cramped and dirty prison. He feels trapped with Giovanni and trapped in a way of life he abhors. At first, the room symbolizes David's refuge from the revelation of himself to the world, but it later symbolizes his entrapment, his inability to escape from his desire for other men, itself a terrible prison for him.

Blue Envelope

David has spoken to Jacques only a few times after Giovanni's sentencing and before moving to the South of France with Hella. It is there that Jacques sends a blue envelope containing the date of Giovanni's execution. David never tells the reader whether he opens it, but he leaves the rented house on the day Giovanni is supposedly executed. "The morning weights on [his] shoulders with the dreadful weight of hope" as he tears the envelope into pieces. The wind carries most of them away, but some fly back to him. This final image symbolizes David's past with Giovanni. He tears it up because he wants to act as if the relationship had never happened, not even the good parts, and move on with his life. However, the paper that comes back indicates he will never forget and that his feelings will never blow away in the wind, but always adhere to him.

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