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Background and Comment: James Baldwin’s apparent purpose in writing the letter t
Background and Comment: James Baldwin’s apparent purpose in writing the letter to his namesake nephew is to give the young man life advice. The prevailing theme of this advice, in one form or another, seems to be love, and as Baldwin tells it, love seems to be both a necessity for survival and the key to freedom. But what is this love, and how can it be both of these things, especially in a world that seems to try so hard to reject it? On the way to reaching his rousing conclusion, in which “my dungeon shook and my chains fell off,” Baldwin makes arguments. He reasons his way there. It is your task in this paper to figure out how. Matter and Form: An explication is typically a close, analytic explanation of a brief bit of a text. For this short paper, you are to do two things: 1) find one of Baldwin’s arguments, state and explain its premises and conclusion, and then 2) show how that argument serves the overall movement of the letter by the way it connects to what comes before and after it. Your thesis statement will need to state the argument and how it helps to connect the parts of the letter. The structure of your essay should look something like this: I. Introduction with thesis statement at the end of the paragraph (Remember, a paragraph should have at least three sentences.) II. Body A. Baldwin’s argument: premises and conclusion, with explanation B. How Baldwin’s argument follows from what precedes it C. Baldwin’s argument leads to what follows it III. Conclusion (including a refreshing restatement of your main idea and how it illuminates Baldwin’s letter)

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