It first appeared in his 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. 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.
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The story centers on two step-brothers, Roy and John, and a neighborhood rockpile they are forbidden from playing near. When Roy disobeys this order, he is badly cut.
But rather than being punished for disobedience, Roy is coddled by his father, while John is blamed for leading Roy astray. Though Roy and John are close to each other, and to their mother, Baldwin also hints that John does not get along with Gabriel, his stepfather and the biological father of Roy, Delilah and Paul.
Roy the Troublemaker In the description of him and his actions prior to the climax, Roy is depicted as the troublemaking younger brother of John. While Elizabeth warns both Roy and John about playing on the rock pile, Baldwin reveals that her primary target for these warnings is Roy. This is because she understands that John only needs to be told once, but Roy needs constant redirection.
Her warning is also intended to direct John to pay close attention to his disobedient younger brother. John the Outcast The protagonist of the story, John, is constantly portrayed as being outside of and separate from his family.
Baldwin quickly reveals that this is because John is the illegitimate son of Elizabeth. Gabriel the Hypocrite Gabriel is described as a preacher, but his actions rarely display the benevolence and kindness normally associated with preachers. Gabriel constantly belittles Elizabeth because she had a child out of wedlock. Additionally, he demeans John and regards him as inferior to his own biological children, Delilah, Paul and, especially, Roy.
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The Rockpile (short story)
Critics believe that it may have been written much earlier, when Baldwin was working on his novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain. The short story draws on the same pool of characters from the novel, and the main incident in "The Rockpile" is similar to a scene from the novel. In "The Rockpile," which takes place in Depression-era Harlem, John, the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Grimes, is unable to stop his brother, Roy, from getting into a fight on a rockpile with some other African-American boys. Roy gets hurt, and John gets blamed by his stepfather, although Elizabeth faces her husband and sticks up for John. When the story was first published in the s, America was in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement , in which Baldwin was an active participant. The story addresses the issue of violence between African-American men, the violence inherent in African-American families, and the power of religion in Depression-era Harlem. A current copy of the story can be found in the paperback version of Going to Meet the Man, which was published by Vintage Books in
What Is the Exposition of 'The Rockpile'?