Childish Ways Transform True Love

Category: Ethics
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There are four forms of love discussed in the Bible: Eros, romantic love, Storge, family love, Philia, brotherly love and Agape, God’s divine love. Love is mostly analyzed and discussed in the chapter of Corinthians, as God’s divine love. Love is illustrated by Paul, one of Jesus’ disciples, as a verb, that is made up of actions. Paul personifies love as having the ability to be patient, kind, and without envy, which drive our actions. God loves everyone, and society shapes the idea of what is right and wrong. In Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, both novels insert a passage of Corinthians 13 describing a character’s journey through understanding. The modified quote states, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (Corinthians 13.11). In Corinthians, love is the purest action that must be followed by societal views throughout a person’s life. While both authors use the passage, their interpretation is different. In Baldwin’s novel, David gives up his true feelings to be accepted and loved by society, while in Robinson’s novel, Jack gives up his sinful ways to reenter society, but fears of not being accepted because of his marriage to an African American woman.

In Giovanni’s Room, David, our main character, struggles with his unacceptable love for Giovanni and believes he must put away the “childish ways” of love towards Giovanni and escape his room. Societal views press against David’s type of love because in the Bible, love is between a man and woman. David struggles throughout the novel with his relationship with Hella and Giovanni because he cannot both give them what they want. While in an intense conversation with Giovanni, David poses “What do you think can happen between us?” Giovanni replies “You know very well what can happen between us. It is for that reason you are leaving me,” (Baldwin 142). In spite of this, David is trapped in his feelings, in Giovanni’s room, and must escape. Baldwin’s novel ends cynical because society doesn’t accept David for his homosexuality and forces David to conform to become accepted in society.

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From David’s revelation with Giovanni, he must face it head on, rather than through a dark mirror. David metaphorically sees his reflection and wants to “crack that mirror and be free” and realizes his only way to redeem himself in society is to leave Giovanni (Baldwin 168). While detaching himself from his feelings of homosexuality, Giovanni’s presence is still emotionally attached to him. The last sentences of the novel illustrate an envelope with a letter from Giovanni that David tears into pieces, but when David “turn[s] and begin[s] walking toward the waiting people, the wind blows some of them back on me,” (Baldwin 169). From this metaphorical symbolism, David can’t escape the room and can’t truly escape his feelings. Related to Corinthians, David believes he is able to put away his “childish ways” by coming to terms with societal views and his reality of love, escaping Giovanni’s room. David can never hide his true feelings of love as a homosexual man but possibly David believes he can become a heterosexual or asexual man to be accepted by society.

In Gilead, John states the Corinthians passage to portray Edward’s loss of faith in religion when he leaves Gilead. This use of the quote is foreshadowing Jack’s struggles to re-enter society even though he has repented his sins and put away his “childish ways.” Jack’s breakthrough from lighting mailboxes on fire, impregnating a woman, and leaving his child, are seen as “childish” acts. Although, when he comes back to Gilead and re-enters society, Jack is afraid he won’t be accepted by society and questions his religious predestination. Jack turns to John Ames, a Calvinist, to seek wisdom, support and acceptance. Jack describes his marriage to John by stating, “We are married in the eyes of God, as they say. Who does not provide a certificate, but who also does not enforce anti-miscegenation laws” (Robinson 219-220). Even though God accepted their marriage, their families on both sides of the marriage, and society in general, has contradicting beliefs to interracial marriage. Jack feels like he can’t have true love because there are people that don’t condone his marriage.

Even when Jack is able to put away his childish acts, he still won’t gain the support he gleans for by his family and his community in Gilead. John, at the beginning of the novel does not think highly of Jack because of the bad things he did when he was younger but now John notices that Jack is a changed man. Jack mentions he wants to be a good person, and even though he isn’t very religious, he still believes in faith. John’s empathetic support towards Jack helps him find self-confidence and acceptance in himself. John provides Jack with a blessing to encourage his changed good morals. Before Jack leaves, John sees him off at the bus stop and says a blessing that ends by saying “Lord, bless John Ames Boughton, this beloved son and brother and husband and father” (Robinson 241). John not only blesses Jack but also accepts him for who he loves and wishes him the best to be a good person. Jack’s change from his “childish ways” doesn’t fully let him enter society because he now has an African American wife and child, but John supports Jack and blesses him good fortunes for his life.

The idea of acceptance is a key factor into both David and Jack’s attempts to re-enter society. In this time period, society does not condone homosexual love and interracial relationships. These main characters realize the breakthrough they must make to escape the inevitable and the guilt bestowed upon them by society. They must put away their past to move towards love that is accepted by society. Again, while analyzing Corinthians the quote, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing”, has a profound message related to both character’s struggles (Corinthians 13). The first being they aren’t accepted or loved for who they are and the second being that they sacrifice real, true love to fall in line with society. While David believes he has to give up his homosexual love to be free, Jack believes finally he already gave up enough to be accepted by society. Nonetheless, the love you find within yourself and express to other people can sometimes unfortunately be twisted and transformed into love that society wants.

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Childish Ways Transform True Love. (2021, May 17). Retrieved from