The Discovery of what it means to be an American.
Growing up as a poor African American in New York City, James Baldwin finds himself isolated from Whites and blacks with questions about self identity. In 1948, disgusted with race relations in the United States, he moved to Paris where he lived, on and off, for the rest of his life. During his travels in Europe he discovers that the limitations that he was bounded by in America were no longer prevalent in European society. .
Baldwin went to Europe to find out how his experience as a black American "could be made to connect [him] with other people instead of dividing [him] from them." (Baldwin 40). Baldwin saw a way of life that was very different from the way he lived in America. He didn't want to been seen as a "negro writer,"" but as a true writer representing every American. "I wanted to prevent myself from becoming merely a Negro; or, even merely a Negro writer."" (Baldwin 40) He was now in a society that valued his talent and allowed it to grow, by not judging him by his skin color but more on the content of his work. Comparing himself to other American writers in Europe, race no longer stood as a factor as the playing field was leveled.
Baldwin states that "it is the writer, not the statesman, who is our strongest arm in the wedding the visions of the old world with the new world."" This is a comparison between his views on life when he was living in New York versus living in Paris. While Living in New York (The New World), Baldwin was fearful of his surroundings. He was unable to cope with the racial tension, and the lack of intellectual stimulation around him. As stated in this quote "we have a very deep-seated distrust of real intellectual effort (probably because we suspect that it will destroy, as I hope it does that myth of America to which we cling so desperately). An American writer fights his way to one of the lowest rungs on the American social ladder by means of pure bull-headedness and an indescribable series of odd jobs.