Baldwins Harlem Essay

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Cameron Ohlin Baldwin’s Harlem In his essay entitled, “Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem,” James Baldwin composes a masterful description of the slum that is Harlem, New York. Baldwin takes the reader on a journey through the “colorless, bleak, and revolting” streets that make up Harlem. He portrays the white policeman as a soldier, prepared for war at a moments notice. While Baldwin’s essay is of upmost seriousness, he discovers a way to incorporate irony and even sarcasm into his writing. Baldwin shows his knowledge of the streets history as he describes how Harlem began and gradually became the ghetto that it is today. Throughout his essay, Baldwin displays his superior knowledge of Harlem as a whole. Baldwin comes right out with syntax by stating that “The projects in Harlem are hated.” He swiftly establishes his point of view and how he feels about his hometown. He emphasizes that they will remain hated no matter what attempt is made on paper by repeating the phrase “no matter how many times” on several occasions in his opening paragraph. As he begins to go into detail on the appearance of Harlem, Baldwin paints a portrait of the housing being that of a prison and the churches having slits in them like those of a castle prepared to ward off wave after wave of enemy soldiers. Baldwin makes the reader feel as if there is no safe haven in Harlem by ironically describing the schoolhouses as places where a child may emerge “maimed, blinded, hooked, or enraged for life.” As Baldwin switches gears in his topics, so does his style of writing. While at first he seems rather angry and upset, he now has a sense of knowledge in his tone. He effectively gives the reader a brief history of how Harlem began and how there is little hope for it today. He sarcastically states that “no amount of improvement can sweeten this fact.” the fact being that whites think
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