Come Out the Wilderness

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"Come Out the Wilderness" is a 1965 short story by James Baldwin, taken from the short story collection, Going to Meet the Man.

Plot summary[edit]

Ruth is living with Paul, who has taken to coming back home in the wee hours of night, putting forth that they are not married and that he tells her everything. She feels rejuvenated when Mr Davis not only suggests making her his own secretary and increasing her salary, but also takes her out to lunch. However, as he suggests taking her out at night, she feels confused and emotional, and they return to work. Later, since Paul called her earlier to say he would be away at some art gallery with Cosmo, she goes to a bar and thinks back to an ex-boyfriend who had treated her like a slavegirl on a farm. In tears, she walks out of the bar, feeling disoriented.


  • Ruth, a young black woman. She works for a life insurance company.
  • Paul, a painter, Ruth's boyfriend. He is white.
  • Cosmo, another painter, a friend of Paul's.
  • Arthur, Ruth's ex-boyfriend, a clarinet player. She left her family home in the South with him. They lived together for four years.
  • Mr Davis, the other black man at Ruth's company.
  • Ruth's father
  • Ruth's brother. He came upon her as she was about to make love when she was seventeen, and beat up the boy and called her names; they didn't talk after that.

References to other works[edit]

References to actual history[edit]

  • African-American slavery

Main themes[edit]

  • racism
  • Mr Davis speaks in Ebonics with Ruth, strengthening their mutual sense of identity.