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Last Updated on February 22, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 424

Another Country is a novel by James Baldwin that examines the lives of marginalized people, including gay people, poor people, and people of color. The novel takes place in Greenwich Village, Harlem, in the 1950s.

Most people have not lived—nor could it, for that matter, be said that they had died—through any of their terrible events. They had simply been stunned by the hammer. They passed their lives thereafter in a kind of limbo of denied and unexamined pain.

Here Baldwin expresses themes of running from suffering, hiding from oneself, and numbing one’s emotional experience. Throughout the novel, people suppress, ignore, or resist their emotional experience of the world as a way of coping with what might otherwise be overwhelming suffering. Though emotional numbing may work partially, Baldwin wants us to become aware of the cost of this type of internal repression. It prevents a person from growing and from experiencing themselves and others fully.

Perhaps such secrets, the secrets of everyone, were only expressed when the person laboriously dragged them into the world, imposed them on the world, and made them a part of the world’s experience. Without this effort, the secret place was merely a dungeon in which the person perished; without this effort, indeed, the entire world would be an uninhabitable darkness.

Symbols of darkness, incarceration, shadow, and suppression feature significantly in this work. Here, Baldwin describes the process of coming out of the shadows of suppression and into the light of acknowledgment and acceptance. We cannot change the past; we cannot erase even our most heinous actions. What we can do, however, is make the world a more livable place by facing our mistakes and acknowledging our own weaknesses. Otherwise, our secrets will turn into self-made prisons, cutting us off from any meaningful and authentic relationship with others.

The brevity was not due to discourtesy or coldness, simply to lack of habit. Insofar as she saw him at all, she saw him as Rufus’ friend, one of the inhabitants of the world in which her son had chosen to live.

Characters in Another Country often have trouble seeing each other as full and complete human beings. People view each other through the lens of racism, homophobia, and misogyny. They often see the difference between people more clearly than they see their similarity. Many characters do not extend basic courtesy to those they consider different from (or lesser than) themselves. This is an example of the subtle forms of disrespect and dehumanization that marginalized people endure daily.

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