Garden of Eden

If I have to pick my favorite idea/element from James Baldwin’s work, I would say it is the Garden of Eden. I indeed looked up Garden of Eden on google and read a lot of information on the story and the meaning behind it. Interestingly, I grew up going to a catholic school, yet I do not remember anything from the bible even though I spent hours and hours listening to stories of it. I still remember rereading that paragraph from Giovanni’s Room, “Perhaps everybody has a Garden of Eden, I don’t know; but they have scarcely seen their garden before they see the flaming sword. Then, perhaps, life only offers the choice of remembering the garden or forgetting it. Either, or; it takes strength to remember, it takes another kind of strength to forget, it takes a hero to do both. People who remember court madness through pain, the pain of the perpetually recurring death of their innocence; people who forget court another kind of madness, the madness of the denial of pain and the hatred of innocence; and the world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare.”, because I could not understand the meaning behind it. I couldn’t fully understand yet I saw how beautifully it was written and felt the depth underneath the words. It might not be exactly what James Baldwin would like to express, but I came to a thought that everyone has their Garden of Eden because everyone has their own definition of happiness and innocence. Garden of Eden is said to be a symbol of a place with perfect harmony and innocence. Just based on the definition of it, we should already know that such place does not exist. Even kids might not be completely innocent and not aware of right or wrong. Perhaps Garden of Eden is just a set of unreachable standard that people came up with when they have so much struggles and pain in real life. David told his story as if there were so many barriers between him and his true self, as if being himself is a sin. I personally believe the biggest barriers of all was his own mindset that was trapping him in his pain and struggles.

2 thoughts on “Garden of Eden

  1. fmaldonado says:

    The professor’s picture that she drew in class of what the Garden of Eden was, gave me a better understanding in terms of being an outcast. It is true that society sets expectations for everyone and the moment you do not fit in that mold, you become an outcast. In Giovanni’s Room, David had to live his life in another country where no one knew him and even in that situation, he lived a double life. Could have been denial. Could have been he felt more free to be himself while still living according to society’s expectations (pretending to love a woman). I do not believe David (the character), was being malicious by lying to his girlfriend.
    I do not know if anyone else in class felt sad for him at the end, but I did. You go on living in this world, wanting to please your loved ones but do we first focus on pleasing ourselves? It has to be hard to put yourself in the number one position after being told (maybe conditioned) to live according to everyone else’s expectation of you!
    In any event, he hurt people that he really cared about by pretending to be something he was not. However, I do not believe he did it purposely. I think he was living his life trying to please both himself and the world.

  2. Joey Cheng says:

    I look at the Garden of Eden in two ways. First is in the way of looking at it as a place of harmony and innocence, just like you said. In our minds, I would think that the Garden of Eden is a place where we can escape the difficulties of reality and try to find peace. But it is not a place that we can stay in for forever, because we are all knowledgable, and like in the Bible that knowledge that we have is what gets us kicked out the Garden of Eden. I feel that for David, Giovanni was his Garden of Eden for the time that they shared together. But he was aware that society had expectations for a white male like him, thus he was unable to to stay in his Garden of Eden forever and eventually had to leave it and face his harsh reality.
    The professor’s drawing of the Garden of Eden, as stated above, also gave me another view of what it symbolized. In another context we could say that David was living such a difficult life and had so many problems that he had to face because he was not living up to society’s expectations. Thus, David was unable to live a harmonious and peaceful life due to the fact that he is an outcast of society’s expectations.

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