Another Country Summary
Another Country, by James Baldwin, centers around a young man name Rufus Scott, an African American musician living in Greenwich Village in the 1950s. Rufus Scott is wandering the streets and hard on his luck when he meets a white woman named Leona. They fall in love and live together, but Rufus is angry at the world and at the people around him who he believes condemn their interracial relationship.
Rufus becomes anxious and out of sorts about his relationship with a white women, despite the fact that he is surrounded by friends who are laid back, liberal, and accepting. In his anger and fear, he begins to mistreat Leona, who becomes mentally unstable. Leona is sent to a psychiatric hospital and then taken away from New York by her brother. Rufus loses his job and becomes a drunkard, grieving from the loss. He turns to his writer friend Vivaldo for help, but Rufus sinks into lonely despair and kills himself by jumping off a bridge.
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 crucial point in their relationship. After his revelation with Eric, Vivaldo finally is able to overcome his fear of losing Ida and is able to talk frankly with her. She confesses her affair with Steve Ellis, and Vivaldo proves able to forgive and be forgiven, and so to sustain their love. This final part ends with Yves arriving in New York, feeling at first lost in another country, and then comforted and at home when his beloved Eric meets him as promised at the airport.
Vivaldo may be seen as the central character, because he has important love relationships with most of the other main characters. On the other hand, Rufus, though he dies early in the novel, also has important love relationships with most of the same characters.
Rufus tries to love Leona as a wife, though they do not marry. He tries to love Vivaldo, Cass, Richard, and Eric as friends and to love Ida as his sister. He fails at love. His failure arises directly from his experience with racism, from the self-hatred he cannot escape because it renews itself constantly in his experiences of racial oppression. All of his friends love him, some deeply, but he cannot bring himself to believe in and simply accept their love. Though he tries to love Leona, he cannot help but want to use her to avenge himself on whites. He unconsciously seeks love from whites in order to be able to love himself, but he also rejects the notion that he must depend on white approval. Caught in this contradiction, he destroys Leona and takes his own life.
Vivaldo tries to love Rufus, Cass, Richard, and Eric...
(The entire section is 1,538 words.)