Told from a third-person, limited point of view, the novel shifts between internal and external views of the characters and offers internal views of several main characters: Rufus, Vivaldo, Cass, Eric, and Yves. Baldwin’s choice to avoid extended internal views of Richard and Ida may seem puzzling, but in both cases, Baldwin is able to focus attention and sympathy on their opposites, Cass and Vivaldo. Concealing Richard’s and Ida’s thoughts makes it likely that readers will share the mistakes and self-deceptions of Cass and Vivaldo about their lovers, heightening the effects of their eventual discoveries. Because Cass’s problems parallel Ida’s, and Vivaldo’s parallel Richard’s, readers can appreciate the dramatic irony of Cass and Vivaldo’s limited perspectives.
Richard has been hiding his fears about Cass’s withdrawal of respect and affection from him. He knows that she cannot admire his popular detective novel, and he fears that she no longer loves him. Ida has been hiding the mercenary and vengeful motives that led her to have affairs with white men, including Vivaldo and Ellis. Baldwin shows Cass reading Richard’s withdrawal as a turning away from her toward the shallow and false world of a celebrity author. Vivaldo’s motives for ignoring his suspicions about Ida’s infidelity prove very complicated. He says that he fears Ellis will take advantage of her with promises of career advancement. He also fears—rightly—that she will willingly trade sexual favors for advancement when it suits her....
(The entire section is 627 words.)