James Baldwin’s Another Country book is a life story of people living in New York during the late 1950s. While exploring the new world at the time, Baldwin experiences numerous binary pairings in a society that seems new to him. The binary pairings are black or white, rich or poor, younger or older, gay or straight, male or female, which made the order of the day on how people carried out themselves in Another Country. The following essay will discuss some binary pairings by examining how different characters led people to judge them and the circumstances that led them to accept their binary identification in society.
Black or white
The first binary pairing in Another Country is society’s black or white people. According to Baldwin, despite the negativity associated with racism, it is very important in defining interracial relations in society. Racism often contributes to some level of tension within the workplace which mostly goes unrecognized by those within such settings. Baldwin states that white guilt in society defines how they relate to and are judged by other groups. He asserts that they often say, “They’re colored, and I’m white, but the same things have happened, really the same things, and how can I make them know that?”(p.113). In this instance, Baldwin demonstrates how suffering in society does not look at the color of an individual, and it is high time people begin living together without considering suffering tied to people from a certain race. Baldwin also accounts for Rufu’s lonely life because he was born black. He believes that the color of his skin dictates how he is judged or treated by other members of society and, therefore, cannot have the urge to act cruelly against the supremacy that exists in society (pp.66-67). Nonetheless, this does not mean that there are people with a specific color that suffer the most. Therefore, the structure of a society is mostly viewed from bottom to up rather than looking at people as either black or white since suffering is imminent to both groups of individuals. As a result, this has helped people accept binary identification in society because their circumstances are equally the same.
Gay or straight
Secondly, Another Country demonstrates another binary pairing of gay and straight, whereby there are peculiar male characters in the Novel who identify as gay but still go ahead to sleep with women. The Novel presents Vilvado as having a gay relationship with Rufus, and they seem to have a good time together. However, Vilvado seems to have a complicated relationship with his mother because of their relationship with Eric (pp.120-123). Vilvado even shy’s away from openly showing his affection towards Rufus because of his race, demonstrating the obstacles people face in building their identity. He even confesses before Cass that he beat up and abused young boys, and he feels hard to understand if he is still the same person that did these evil things (p.112). Interestingly, Valvado still contempts women, most of whom he had sex with, and primarily sees them as prostitutes. This creates a binary identity in which Valvado does not know whether he desires women or men in society. He realizes that his parents hate him for this, and at this point, he admits that he was just a poor white boy in trouble and it was never his original intent to have sexual affairs with black people from both sexes and look down upon them. He finally realizes his binary identity through these revelations.
Certainty and doubt
Finally, the other binary identity presented in the Novel is certainty and doubt. Baldwin alluded that the best path to certainty is through doubt, accompanied by much suffering. The suffering and doubt strengthen a person to tackle life issues and engage their memories to establish what has made them who they are in their present life. The characters in the Novel move through their certainty and doubts to ensure they are not unfairly judged by those around them (p.107). For instance, the Novel introduces Rufus as an individual with much certainty and doubts about his presence in the world. From the start of the Novel, the character faces a lot of trauma because of his skin color and repressed bisexuality. As a result, he feels traumatized and judged by those around him because of this binary identity and ends ups finally committing suicide, having felt that he possesses both entities and there is nothing that society can do to change him.
Conclusively, James Baldwin’s Another Country book is a life story of different people living in New York during the late 1950s. The book focuses on how people fail to identify themselves in society because of binary identifications. The binary identities identified are black or white, gay or straight, and certainty or doubt. The characters in the Novel take different paths in self-identification, making it interesting to help people identify themselves in society.
Baldwin, James. Another Country. United Kingdom, Penguin, 1990.