Another Country by James Baldwin Summary

Summary (Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Another Country tells the stories of artists, mainly in New York, struggling to love and be loved amid the complexities of racism, sexism, and homophobia. James Baldwin divided the novel into three parts.

“Book One: Easy Rider” begins by narrating the last day of Rufus Scott’s life in a November in the late 1950’s, with digressions that show how he has come to the point of suicide. Then it shows his white friends responding to his death. This book ends the following March, when Vivaldo Moore begins an affair with Ida Scott.

“Book Two: Any Day Now” opens with Eric Jones and Yves in southern France, and then follows Eric to New York in early summer, where he renews old friendships. During the summer, Cass and Richard Silenski’s marriage comes apart, Cass begins an affair with Eric, and Vivaldo and Ida’s relationship unravels. This book ends with Cass’s confession to Richard, which brings an end to her affair; though very painful for both of them, the episode seems to hold the promise of a renewal of their marriage.

“Book Three: Toward Bethlehem” opens with Vivaldo and Eric making love. This event brings the love between these two men into the open and releases them into new understandings of themselves and of the nature of love. Vivaldo confirms that he is not homosexual, but also that he need not be afraid of loving a male friend and expressing this love physically. It was just such a fear that he believes prevented him from comforting Rufus at...

(The entire section is 617 words.)

Another Country Summary (Masterpieces of American Literature)

Another Country is an intricate novel about a diverse group of idealistic but often troubled individuals in New York City. The novel is unified by the character of Rufus, a young black musician who commits suicide early in the novel but remains a vital presence in the awareness and memory of others.

Book 1, “Easy Rider,” follows Rufus on the night of his suicide. Memories tell his history: growing up in Harlem and learning about racism, becoming a successful jazz drummer, meeting and falling in love with a simple, good-hearted southern woman named Leona, feeling impotent against society’s view of their interracial relationship, letting anger and alcohol inhibit his music, distrusting and abusing Leona, driving her to a mental hospital, losing his sense of worth, and, ultimately, jumping off the George Washington Bridge. The first book ends with Rufus’s death.

The second book, “Any Day Now,” follows the people closest to Rufus as they go on without him. His best friend, Vivaldo, an aspiring writer of Irish Italian descent, loves him and feels guilty for not saving him. At Rufus’s funeral, Vivaldo is drawn to Rufus’s younger sister Ida, and they soon become lovers. Ida is quiet, beautiful, proud, and bitter. Whereas Vivaldo can accept individuals without regard to color or gender, Ida can never escape, even as she becomes a successful singer, awareness of her limited position as a black woman.

Losing Rufus brings Vivaldo and Ida closer to Vivaldo’s friend and former teacher Richard and his wife, Cass. Richard has just sold his first novel, a popular murder mystery, and Cass is realizing the limits of his artistic vision. It is Cass who sends news of Rufus’s death to Eric, an American actor in Paris who was once his closest friend. After three years abroad, Eric is returning to New York...

(The entire section is 755 words.)

Another Country Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Rufus Scott, an African American musician, is in a desperate condition. He not only has no money but also he has fallen out of contact with his friends and his family. He was out of touch for about a month and a half. Moreover, the most foreboding aspect of Rufus’s condition is his total despair. This despair results primarily from his complete alienation from those who were formerly close to him. As Rufus wanders the streets of New York, he remembers his relationships with people he loves. He realizes that his love is often mixed with hostility. For example, months earlier, he met a white southern woman named Leona at a party. During the party, their affair began. Rufus realizes that part of what he wanted from his relationship with Leona was to take out on her his rage against white people. This relationship is somewhat of a pattern with Rufus. He also had an affair with a white southern actor named Eric Jones. In his present desperate state, Rufus realizes how he abused both Eric and Leona, ultimately driving them away with his racist taunts and physical and psychological humiliation. Consequently, Rufus realizes that he used Eric’s and Leona’s love for him to abuse them and thereby vent his anger and frustrations. He alienates himself from everyone to whom he was once close. His once-close friend, aspiring writer Vivaldo Moore, who became fed up with Rufus’s inflicting his problems on him and others, Rufus also drives away. After reflecting on his relationships and realizing how isolated he is, Rufus kills himself by jumping off the George Washington Bridge.

Meanwhile, Ida, Rufus’s sister, is trying to find him. She goes to the home of Richard Silenski, a newly successful novelist, and his wife, Cass. Vivaldo is also present. One of Ida’s chief characteristics—her anger against whites—becomes clear. She accuses Rufus’s friends of not caring about what happened to him, as all of them are white. Vivaldo feels especially guilty, recalling how he failed to show up for his last scheduled meeting with Rufus. After Richard suggests checking with hospitals and the morgue, Rufus’s friends learn the truth: Rufus is dead.

Ida’s relationship with Rufus’s circle of friends—Vivaldo, Richard, and Cass—continues. Vivaldo becomes attracted to Ida and the two become lovers, even though Ida, like Rufus, feels a simultaneous attraction to and repulsion from whites. Further complicating things is that Ida, an aspiring singer, decides to have an affair with white television producer Steve...

(The entire section is 1031 words.)