My Dungeon Shook: a Letter to my Nephew

When reading “My Dungeon Shook: A Letter to my Nephew”, it was clear that Baldwin was not just writing a letter to his nephew but to society by interacting personal thoughts with public awareness. A letter to my nephew is not only interesting to me because James Baldwin is one my my favorite authors of all time but also I think it is so dope that Baldwin advises his nephew on how to live in America, as a black man in 1962, and what is expected of him. During the time of the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement was taking place. African Americans were facing discrimination and segregation; they were considered lesser to the white dominant society. African American activists, like Martin Luther King and many others, were fighting for equality for the black community. Baldwin explains to his nephew that it is his nephew’s responsibility to defend the rights of African Americans and take part in the fight for freedom for all. He discusses how America doesn’t allow African Americans to achieve their fullest potential and, because of this, his nephew must work hard, achieve greatness, and prove them wrong. Prior to this conclusion and moral of his letter, he discusses the Jim Crow laws, promoting segregation, and the difficulties of being an African American during this time period.

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He refers to the white community that has been racist towards black people and that it is important that black people take a stand against this injustice. Baldwin is able to make his point apparent by discussing the hardships he has had to see his brother, himself, and other African Americans, face in working towards racial equality. He brings his letter to a personal standpoint to make it understandable to his nephew. He also does this to show his nephew how important a topic this is, and what must be done so his nephew, and his nephew’s children, and his nephew’s children’s children, can have a better life. ?Baldwin makes the reasoning behind his letter clear stating, “Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure, does not testify to your inferiority, but to their inhumanity and fear” (Baldwin). Though the white majority may express racism towards the black community, they are entirely wrong. It is not the black population that is inferior, but the whites that are cruel and afraid of standing up for what is right, equality. It was Baldwin’s ability to discuss what was going on in America, for African Americans, in the early 1960’s, that created strength in his letter. He had first-hand experience of the inequality that was being faced for blacks, and thus was able to clearly relay to his nephew how important it was to fight for equality and grant strength for black people.

Analysis of “Letter to my Nephew” and Literary techniques

According to James Baldwin’s “My Dungeon Shook: A Letter to My Nephew” African Americans can’t acquire their bit of the American Dream. Baldwin composed a letter to his nephew in anticipation of leading and guiding him through life. Baldwin had numerous useful tidbits to share, generally words incited by agony and outrage. Baldwin needed to show his nephew the mercilessness and cruelty of society. His primary concern was to show his nephew not to trust the white man and his words. He needed to urge his nephew to prevail throughout everyday life except not to expect the unassailable. We see the literary example of Imagery In the second paragraph of James Baldwin’s letter to his nephew, the author speaks of his relationship with his brother. Here we have many images of the nephew’s father as a young child, and of Baldwin in the role of older brother. “I have…carried your Daddy in my arms and on my shoulders,” Baldwin writes, “kissed and spanked him and watched him learn to walk.” The author states that if you have seen someone grow up as he has seen his brother grow, you start to understand the effects of time and pain from a different point of view, and he states that when he sees his brothers face, he is seeing every face that his brother has worn at every stage of his life. “Let him laugh and I see a cellar your father does not remember and a house he does not remember….Let him curse and I see him falling down the cellar steps, and howling, and I remember, with pain, his tears, which my hand or your grandmother’s so easily washed away.” Here we have imagery of the authors childhood with his younger brother, connected permanently to the present for every one of them; those tears effectively cleaned away as a child parallel those increasingly permanent, “imperceptible” ones, brought about by the persecution of African-Americans in the twentieth century and violations against them submitted in the name of hate.

These images additionally uncover the tight-knit family into which James (the nephew) was conceived, and gives the boy and the reader – setting for understanding the connections inside this family. Furthermore, it reveals the multi-generational clash of African-Americans in the United States, a fight in which “it is the genuineness which sets up the wrongdoing.” This is a significant and uncovering letter, perfectly composed, and I suggest understanding it for yourself it isn’t long, and inside its six sections stay a bunch of pictures, and a considerably more prominent number of certainties. Another way we perceive how Baldwin utilizes Tone. The tone is on occasion preventative, nostalgic, regretting, or delicate. Baldwin switches between a progressively direct and genuine tone when he is delivering a lesson to a general audience, and a more personal and warm hearted tone when recounting his childhood, family history, or any important memory. Overall, however, the work is characterized by a somber and warning mood due to its exposition of the limitations faced by African Americans.

How does it relate to today/ Conclusion

In conclusion, James Baldwin touched many people. He was not a selfish writer but when he wrote he thought about the past, present, and future. Learning about him through this story meant a lot to me because we had many people who fought for the rights for African -americans loud with their voice, whether it was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he would speak or the many regular hard working americans using their right to freedom of speech and protesting or people like James baldwin who fought with their brilliance and intelligence through the use of art within telling his stories. This can relate to today because as African-Americans living in this country still have to be aware of who we are and what we are fighting for no matter what and be cautious of our surroundings. It is really good to have legends like James Baldwin to continually remind the youth to fight and be careful, without the pioneers like Badwin where would we be. We still need that guide, push and wisdom to navigate through life as being not only a young person but also an African-American. Also, to know that we also have to work extra hard for what we want, nothing is going to get handed to us and to get that encouragement is everything I’m sure that this story not only touch his nephew but society as a whole.

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My Dungeon Shook: A Letter to my Nephew. (2020, Jun 15). Retrieved September 25, 2022 , from

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