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The Rockpile by James Baldwin

“The Rockpile” is a short story by African American writer James Baldwin. It first appeared in his 1965 collection Going to Meet the Man. The story concerns two boys, Roy and his older brother John. The rock pile is a natural formation across the street from where the boys live. Because of their strict, religious upbringing, they are not allowed to play on the rock pile.

The Rockpile by James Baldwin

After school and on the weekends, Roy and John can see the other boys from the neighborhood playing and fighting on the rock pile. One Sunday, the boys call to Roy. Tempted, he tells John that he will return in five minutes, but John is not paying attention. When he does look up, he sees Roy at the top of the pile, just before a tin can hits Roy in the forehead, causing him to bleed.

Everyone is afraid that Roy’s father will take it out on him when he returns. Instead, his father babies him, stating instead that John is in trouble. Elizabeth, the boys’ mother, steps in to defend her son. The reason that the father tries to blame John is that he is not the boy’s father.

“The Rockpile” explores themes of alienation and of feeling neglected. Much of Baldwin’s fiction is semi-autobiographical. His stepfather was a strict minister and Baldwin was both black and gay, leaving him alienated from the larger segments of American society.

Related Research Paper Topics

African American Experience - Writers such as Baldwin and Zora Neal Hurston were not afraid to reveal the rich complexities of the African American Experience.

African American Literature research papers look at the great works of literature that have come from the eras of the Harlem renaissance and the Civil Rights Era.