Review: Blues for Mister Charlie

Book cover for Blues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin
Blues for Mister Charlie by James Baldwin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Baldwin's play focuses on the tragedy of a young black man (Richard) returning to his home town and being shot dead for failing to respect a white man (Lyle); who had also previously killed another black man supposedly in self-defense. The play itself covers the announcing of the forthcoming arrest of Lyle and ends with the court-trial. In many ways, it is classic Baldwin, in that he presents readers with imperfect and complicated people who converge through issues of race and relationships. The story focuses prominently on the role of the newspaper editor, Parnell James who is friends with both Richard's father, Meridia and Lyle. While the case is all but decided before Lyle stands trial, the questions at the center of the play are about what it means to be a man in white supremacist society and what does it mean to be an ally. Though the answers we get are ugly they also are not entirely without as the final lines of the play indicate. On the whole, the play is most powerful because it feels as if it could easily be written for today with only some minor changes made. If you're looking for a good entry point into Baldwin's work, this is definitely a work that can do that.

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