Another Country Summary
Another Country is a novel by James Baldwin about a group of characters living in New York City.
- Rufus Scott, a Black jazz musician, drives his white girlfriend, Leona, to a mental health crisis and afterward jumps off the George Washington Bridge to his death.
- Rufus’s best friend, Vivaldo, a white writer, falls in love with Rufus’s younger sister, Ida, an aspiring singer, and the two begin a fraught relationship.
- Eric, who has been living in France with his lover, Yves, returns to New York and sleeps with both Vivaldo and Cass, a married woman, before Yves joins him.
Last Updated on February 18, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 165
Another Country , by James Baldwin, centers around a young man name Rufus Scott, a Black 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,...
(The entire section contains 920 words.)
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Another Country, by James Baldwin, centers around a young man name Rufus Scott, a Black 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 woman, 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.
Last Updated on February 22, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 755
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 to appear on Broadway, with Yves, his young French lover, soon to follow.
Another Country is unified not so much by a single action as by an interwoven pattern of events and themes. The story often jumps abruptly from scene to scene, and the narrative voice enters the minds of the characters—especially Vivaldo, Cass, and Eric. Seeking honest means to express themselves, they engage in parties and discussions, arguments and sex, with the mystery of Rufus always nearby. Vivaldo is plagued by jealousy when Ida spends time with her fast-talking producer, but she accuses him of making the racist assumption that all Black women are whores. Eric, anxious about his future with Yves and somewhat dazed to be back in New York, becomes a haven for the disillusioned Cass; she comes to him, and they begin an affair. As the weeks pass, Vivaldo’s jealousy becomes more isolating, Cass’s infidelity more frivolous, and Eric’s future with Yves more certain.
In the culminating book 3, “Toward Bethlehem,” Vivaldo comes to Eric for friendship and comfort, and, both filled with the memory of Rufus, they spend a night of passion together. Meanwhile, Richard has confronted Cass, and she must face her actions. Soon thereafter, Ida confesses to Vivaldo that she has indeed been unfaithful and realizes that, in trying to vindicate her brother’s death by exploiting the white system, she has become a whore after all. Ida and Vivaldo come to a precarious understanding, and Cass predicts that she and Richard will do the same. The novel ends as Yves arrives from Paris to Eric’s welcoming embrace.
Baldwin’s careful structuring of his plot elements employs simultaneous action—different scenes occurring at the same time—and discrepant awareness—knowledge available to the reader but not to individual characters—to highlight the self-absorption, misunderstanding, and folly endemic to human interactions. Parallel situations, such as Vivaldo’s courtship of Ida and Eric’s courtship of Yves, Rufus’s mistreatment of both Eric and Leona, Richard’s and Ida’s professional successes, and Ida’s and Cass’s infidelities, illuminate the complexity of Baldwin’s world.
In Another Country, conventional racial and sexual assumptions are rejected, and the characters struggle on equal terms to make the connections they need. The novel’s cryptic title functions on several levels, referring to exile (Eric’s experience in France), to oppression (the Black experience in America), to idealism (the yearning for a land free of social evils), and, most important, to the experience of love—entering, conquering, possessing, and inhabiting another person, tenderly or violently, emotionally or physically, with all that such otherness offers to the one who dares to love.