cause they were not black, and could notnimagine that they terrified white peoplenbecause white people are not white …”nJOaldwin has been living in self-imposednexile in the south of France fornmany years. His comparison of Birmingham,nAlabama, to Sodom and Gomorrahncould hardly come from onenwho has observed the dramatic changesnin race relations in the American Southnin recent years. Birmingham now has anblack mayor. So does Atlanta. GeorgenWallace now says that he was wrong,nthat segregation should indeed havencome to an end. In Just Above My Head,nBaldwin has one of his characters say,n”You better not wait . . . They ain’tngoing to change their laws for us—itnjust ain’t in them. They change theirnlaws when their laws make them uncomfortablen. . .” That this was writtennby a man fully aware of the 1954 SupremenCourt decision outlawing segregation,nof the Civil Rights Act ofn1964, of school busing and affirmativenaction, makes Baldwin’s standard bitternessnlook spurious. It turns intonplatitude, which a writer of his standingncan’t afford without impairing thatnstanding.nThere is some glimmer of hope, however,nand it is squeezed between the officialnmessages. Arthur is told by hisnmother, “I’m glad you don’t have tonride in no Jim Crow car, like me andnyour daddy had to do. But, Jim Crowncar or no Jim Crow car, we still hadnto raise you—it was a good thing theynchanged the law, but we couldn’t waitnfor that … So you go on down andntest them waters …”nIt is, of course, always difficult tonhave to take responsibility for one’snown future. But once the legal barriersnhave been removed, once the schoolsnand training programs are open, oncenstrenuous efforts are made to compensatenfor the discrimination of the pastn—then to blame white society for anynfailure makes little sense; somehownothers must now take responsibilitynfor anything. Resisting or renouncingn22inChronicles of Culturenthese responsibilities seems to be thengist of today’s race relations in America,nand it still waits for a great black novelistnto render it justice. James Baldwinnseems to recognize the tension whichnan end to legalized racism brings, butnhe has failed to confront it, preferringnto rely upon the symbolism and rhetoricnof the past.nThat Baldwin is very much annAmerican can hardly be questioned.nBeyond the racial consciousness andnsexual obsession remains a sense ofnplace and an experience shared. Julia,nupon returning from Africa, tells Hallnabout her new awareness: “You’renblind, that’s the first thing you realizenis that you’re blind. Later you beginnto see—something. And, then, you beginnto see why you couldn’t see. But atnfirst—damn, you know more about thenMississippi cracker, even though younhate him and you know he hates you.nAnd then . . . you see how people trynto hold on to what they know, no matternhow ugly it is. It’s better than nothing!”nAs absurd as it sounds, it would apparentlyncome as a great surprise tonBaldwin to learn that tens of thousandsnof black Americans have moved intonthe middle class, that a greater percentagenof black Americans are now studyingnin institutions of higher learningnthan are white Englishmen, Frenchmennor Germans, that black Americans nownhold some of the nation’s highest offices.nHe would be equally surprisednto learn that, according to our latestnpolling data, the questions which mostntrouble black Americans are preciselynthe questions which most trouble whitenAmericans: the quality of education,ninflation, crime in the streets. We havenmade tremendous strides toward creatingna free and open society in which annindividual’s race will be incidental.nReading Baldwin, however, would leaventhe reader unaware of any of thesensimple facts, which renders his messagensloppy, to say the least. He no longernseems to be certain where he belongsnin today’s black world and this confusednbook is the evidence. In his 1949 PartisannReview essay, Baldwin wrote: “Inwant to be an honest man and a goodnwriter.” Either he no longer knows exactlynhow he feels, or he has become sondeluded over the years of racial posturingnand politics that he seems like annanachronism for the 1980’s. DnAlienation a la Howard ElmannErnest Hebert: The Dogs of March,•nViking Press; New York.nby Christina MurphynA. 20th-century American novel cannbe expected to take a dim view of pastoralnthemes. The vision of nature asnidyllic and natural man as morally triumphantnare perspectives lost to thenmodern age, however strongly theynformed the framework of 19th-centurynAmerican idealism. In a world boundednby technology and pockmarked withncomplexity, nature seems to the modernnDr. Murphy is Professor of English atnMississippi Industrial College.nnnnovelist not a sanctuary for idealismnbut one more value savaged by the misperceptionsnof our age. Natural man,nprimitive and instinctive, is not heroic,nbut merely out of step with the times.nHowever nobly or despicably he fightsnthe economic and societal pressuresnthat threaten his survival, he is an insignificantnwarrior doomed to eithernviolent destruction or the painful selfawakeningnof compromise.nErnest Hebert’s The Dogs of March,na first novel, does not deviate from thenpattern of modern novels which see innthe defeat of primitivism a moral lessonnof values lost and dreams exchanged.nWere it not for Hebert’s technical skillsnand the depth of his character portray-n