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Giovanni’s Room Lesson Plans Discussion Questions

Giovanni’s Room Lesson Plans Discussion Questions

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Group 1: How would you characterize David’s relationship with his father?

The relationship between David and his father is facade by some manmade heartiness. David’s father acknowledges that his relationship with his son was initially distant and he blames himself for his failure in bringing up his son properly. We note that David was also unhappy with his father’s loose behavior of interfering with women. He acknowledges that “From that time on, I despised my father (James 2013, P. 15)” Although David’s father never did a lot in David’s life after his mother’s death, David is greatly influenced by his father’s impacts on his life. David tends to disregard his homosexuality nature and identity in an attempt to fulfill his father’s idealized vision. David’s father had always seen David as a masculine and rough man. This even gears David’s efforts in escaping his homosexuality nature because he feels that with his homosexuality nature, he cannot become the man his father had always described (rough and masculine man). David never wanted to disappoint his father as indicated by the author “Who had no one else, but me (James 2013, P. 9)”

The bond between David and his father strengthens is more of friends than it is for the father to son. Rarely would David’s father engage his son in real life discussion advising him on how to approach the changes that David would experience in his manhood. When his father visits him in the hospital after the accident, David understood quite well that he could never have a serious discussion with his father. He asserts that “For I understood, at the bottom of my heart that we had never talked, that now we would (James 2013, P. 19).” After his intimacy with Joey, David recalls the only time he had a discussion with his father, “David and his father got on quite well, really for the vision I gave my father of my life was exactly the vision in which I myself most desperately needed (James 2013, P. 20).” It haunts him when he realizes that he has engaged in homosexuality, and this practice is looked down upon by the community in which David comes from. He also feels that maintaining his relationship with Joey will be dismay to his father who had a great vision for his son.

Group 2: How do we classify David and Giovanni in terms of sexuality? Can we?

It is hard to classify either David bisexual, homosexual or heterosexual. First we see David struggling trying to get his identity. He has unusually strong feeling for men and yet his conscious is strongly against it. David attempted to establish a relationship with his friend Joey, and he regretted on sleeping with him. He felt that that is not the discourse that his life should take. He also felt attracted to Giovanni a feeling that one would use to classify David as a gay. They get involved in a relationship that always keeps David with great fear.

David recalls that friend Hella is coming and he feels afraid too. He is torn finds himself at a crossroad where he is confused on whether to get back in a relationship with Hella or to maintain his relationship with Giovanni. In order to be able to cope with her, he had to look for some female friends and he is forced to go back to his old friends like Sue. He engages in sexual intercourse with sue and this brings more confusion on the stand of David’s sexuality. Later on as David takes a walk in Paris, he notices some women and he gets great negative feelings towards them. With respect to David’s behaviors towards men and women, it is hard to give a rationale of his sexuality. This is because although he has some favors towards males, deep in his heart he dislikes this kind of relationship.

Giovanni’s sexuality is more of a gay. He seemed a bit confident with the relationship than David. One would argue that the confidence of homosexuality in Giovanni results from his involvement in homosexuality encounters. This is made evident when one of David’s friends Jacque approaches David and gives him some advice on the kind of view he should take to avoid stress. “You think…that my life is shameful because my encounters are…. …there is no affection in them, and no joy (James 2013, P. 56).” Despite his high orientation on the homosexuality relationship, Giovanni is not so sure that whatever he is doing is acceptable. This is indicated by the manner in which he covers his window by using a heavy white cleaning polish an indication that their actions are unacceptable by the community and themselves have also not acknowledge that what they do is right. The sexuality of Giovanni s however more oriented to homosexuality as compared to that of David which seem confused and unidentified.

Group 3: Describe Giovanni’s room physically

Giovanni’s room is located very far from the center of the city. This room is located in a remote area and it does not have telephone. It is described as being small, dirty and disorganized. The window of that room that faces the courtyard is painted thus there is no privacy except the painting over. It is now a modern house and it is not well maintained as Baldwin describes it to be half-renovated and a mess. Giovanni’s room is untidy and poorly arranged. The author brings its clear picture as having a very poor layout with all items scattered all over. His tools of work are neither taken good care of nor are they properly kept after work. Giovanni’s bottles of paints, brushes and bottles of oil poorly are poorly maintained and they have no specific position in the room where they are placed after work. The room is in a great mess and its disorder makes it very difficult to find something when one wants to use it.

While Giovanni is taking his landlady around the compound, David realizes how messy the room was since the bathroom and the bedroom were in pathetic condition. Once they have finished using the items, the refuse are just placed within the house rather than taking them to the necessary dustbins for disposal. This is indicated by Giovanni’s statement “All the garbage of this city? Where do they take it? I don’t know where they take it – but it might be very well in my room. The situation in Giovanni’s room is not different with that in David’s room as both rooms are described as being dirty and disorganized. James Baldwin describes Giovanni’s room as being ignored and there is no one to clean it and organize it. It is also said to be underwater a situation that makes it a place where life would not exist. Giovanni never opens the window of his room. Also, he had never bought new curtains and instead, Giovanni had obscured the window panes with white cleaning polish. Giovanni’s room is presented as being neglected and also unfinished. David asserts that Giovanni had great plans to remodel his house plans which were never implemented as the house was partially remodeled. Once the wallpapers were torn, no one bothered to replace them or to remove them from the house. They were just left to lie on the floor in the dust on scrolls and great sheets. Group 4: Describe David’s relationship with Hella. How is he using her? How is she using him?

David relationship with Hella is not truthful. However, it is only David who knows this. Hella trusts David and she loves him. While Hella had gone to Spain, David involved himself in promiscuous behaviors. He became a gay and he slept with his friend Joey. He also got into a gay relationship with Giovanni where he served as a housewife. David has shown strong negative feelings towards women throughout, but it is interesting that he finds Hella being attractive to him. Hella falls in love with him but he is not chastised. Hella had trust her love to David as he looked a trustworthy young man. Since the time she ceased her studies, her life was aimless, and the only hope she had was all on David. She claims that her life had become so aimless that she felt like a tennis ball bouncing, bouncing and she didn’t know where she would land.

David takes the advantage of Hella’s situation and he gets her to bed and they had a sexual encounter. All this happens with her oblivious of the existing relationship between David and Giovanni. She feels so comfortable to lay in bed with David and she expresses her comfort to David “But we, we have our love to keep us warm (James 2013, P.150).” David did not share that mutual feeling with her as his previous experiences kept haunting him. Hella is so much concerned with their relationship and she is serious about it. She even calls David to get to know his whereabouts when she realized she cannot find him. Eventually, David feels that he cannot keep disappearing sexual feelings for Hella he asserts to himself “A lot has been written of love turning to abhorrence, of the heart growing cold with the death of love. It is a remarkable process. It is far more terrible than anything I have ever read about it; more terrible than anything I will be able to say (James 2013, p. 51).”


Baldwin, James. Giovanni’s Room. [1956] 2013 (Vintage International). New York: Vintage, ISBN-13: 978-0345806567

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